We had our bi-annual “wrestle the three little ones to the dentist” earlier this week. We have been every six months since each kid turned two. Each visit, they get a clean bill of health and the little odd chipped part that the identical twins have on (get this) the same front tooth is noted as an error in formation and not a big deal. My oldest son, who has received x-rays the past two years, has never had cavities. He was blessed with evenly spaced teeth and good brushing habits. The twins were blessed with not so evenly spaced teeth and an independent nature that makes brushing somewhat of a fight. “I’m gonna do it mommy, all by myself!” is the nightly charge. But still I was edified by a few good dentist visits to assume we were doing at least an adequate job. Then, we had this most recent visit. All went really well, after all as much as they wrestle and are crazy at home, the boys are remarkably good patients. The twins even sat still for their first x-rays. And then, after hearing no cavities from my oldest, I went on to stupidly say to the dentist “So the twins are good too?” The doctor looked at me with what I could assume was mild pity and said “Not exactly.” We left the dentist office twenty minutes later with a huge bill and a scheduled appointment to have their teeth fixed before the summer ends.
And that’s when it started. I got into my own head and the peace and tranquility I had been feeling all summer quickly evaporated. I started off by blaming the dentist – how had they not know this 6 months ago (despite the fact that they couldn’t before x-rays were taken)? Then, I blamed my kids “ugh, if only they’d just brush and floss more easily and more thoroughly like their brother always had!” Then, I blamed heredity “Why did they have to be born with these teeth instead of my older son’s teeth?” Finally, I turned the blame onto myself “If only I had done a better job as a mom.”
This Sunday’s Gospel speaks of Jesus sending out his followers like “lambs among the wolves.” When I first read this Gospel reading, I thought the wolves are the people or the struggles we encounter when we are doing God’s work. But then, I realized something – the wolves are not always people or situations out there ready to attack me as I strive to serve the Lord. They are often right here – inside of me. Every time I blame another person or situation for something. Every time I beat myself up or call myself a bad mom. The bad wolf inside is winning.
A colleague once introduced me to a saying that by all online accounts is most often attributed as a Cherokee Tale of Two Wolves. It says that inside each of us there are two wolves battling for control: “One is evil, it is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth. The wolf that wins is the one you feed.”
Yes there are definitely improvements my sons, my husband, and I have to make on dental care and there is this unfortunate cavity issue we have to take care of that makes me cringe every time I think of it. There is also the truth that these little guys will be more susceptible to cavities in the future than their brother. But letting this overshadow all the good is letting the wolves take over the sheep. It is forgetting the truth that there is peace and joy to be had in this abundant harvest.
May we have the courage to look inward first and recognize the wolf inside ourselves that keeps us from spreading the kingdom of God.