Feeding the Wolf
by Martha Lynn Coon, AYAVA House Coordinator
Twice a week I get to spend time with six incredible young people, sharing and learning from the ways that we encounter the good, the bad, and the Godly as evidenced in our daily lives. Brought together through the AYAVA House, a unique new program hatched in the Admissions Office of Austin Seminary, we are a motley crew: Churched and un-churched, we are from different regions of the country, represent different racial backgrounds, and spring from a host of different socio-economic realities. What connects us? A desire to grow closer to a sense of who God is and what it means to have a godly call on our lives, embodying vocation in the truest sense of the word. We do this by sharing the ups and downs of work, life, and our struggles to explore and understand this thing called "discernment." And every Sunday night, we eat together.
At our “family dinner,” as we’ve fondly come to call our Sunday night gathering, we take turns bringing a reflective thought or quote to share with the group and discuss after our meal. This week, one of the participants shared a favorite proverb of his, one that helps him stay tracked to his own true north on a daily basis:
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.”
“One is evil, which is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good, which is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” to which the old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
We’ve come to expect that in this community we call AYAVA House, an acronym for the hybrid program which incorporates Austin Young Adult Volunteers and AmeriCorps, we will feed more than our bodies when we gather together with purpose and faithfulness. Like the Cherokee adage, each member of this community chooses which wolf to feed on a daily basis. Not only are they committed to the heroic work they undertake as AmeriCorps volunteers, teaching literacy to adults and children and mentoring students from at-risk communities in the greater Austin area, but they are also committed to feeding their spiritual life through a year of intentional living at AYAVA House.
According to its program description, AYAVA House participants “examine their individual call to a life of service and how this influences their larger vocational direction, exploring these questions through active citizenship in the seminary community, the city of Austin, and the expansive and expanding kingdom of God.” Practically, this commitment to vocational discernment is played out through a combination of education and experience in community service, theological reflection, engagement in spiritual practices, and simple living. Our hope is that by consciously satiating the better of our inner wolves, with grace this program will grow us as people, as a group, and as a community at large.