Tuesday 29 November 2016


Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope (Romans 15:4)

Hope is central to the season of Advent, one of the most important gifts brought to us by Jesus. In a negative, pessimistic age we need Hope. The above line from Romans is one that struck a chord with me when I first starting reading the Bible at the age of 17. It is a Word that has always stirred hope in me.

A couple of years ago the image of the wolf came into my prayer. The wolf scratching at the door. A hungry ravenous wolf! Wolf in sheep's clothing. And I came upon this poem by Charlotte Perkins Gildman - 'The Wolf At The Door'. It appeared in 'The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest' (1915) and the editor, Upton Sinclair,  describes her as America's most brilliant woman poet and critic.

THERE’S a haunting horror near us
  That nothing drives away;
Fierce lamping eyes at nightfall,
  A crouching shade by day;
There’s a whining at the threshold,
  There’s a scratching at the floor.
To work! To work! In Heaven’s name!
The wolf is at the door!

The day was long, the night was short,
  The bed was hard and cold;
Still weary are the little ones,
  Still weary are the old.
We are weary in our cradles
  From our mother’s toil untold;
We are born to hoarded weariness
  As some to hoarded gold.

We will not rise! We will not work!
  Nothing the day can give
Is half so sweet as an hour of sleep;
  Better to sleep than live!
What power can stir these heavy limbs?
  What hope these dull hearts swell?
What fear more cold, what pain more sharp
  Than the life we know so well?…

The slow, relentless, padding step
  That never goes astray—
The rustle in the underbrush—
  The shadow in the way—
The straining flight—the long pursuit—
  The steady gain behind—
Death-wearied man and tireless brute,
  And the struggle wild and blind!

There’s a hot breath at the keyhole
  And a tearing as of teeth!
Well do I know the bloodshot eyes
  And the dripping jaws beneath!
There’s a whining at the threshold—
  There’s a scratching at the floor—
To work! To work! In Heaven’s name!
  The wolf is at the door!


Initially I saw the wolf, the haunting horror, as external to myself and that I was its target; the wolf being the dangerous forces in society that attack and seek to destroy, or at least subdue, the innocent. The wolf was the destructive person who attacks and seeks to destroy, to subdue me mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

And then one day it dawned on me that I am myself the wolf or that the wolf is inside me, a destructive, dangerous force within me.

A daunting, even frightening realization but God, as ever kind and merciful, reminded me of the prophecy in Isaiah - "the wolf lives with the lamb" (11:1-10) - which is an expression of the return to the peace of Paradise, the harmony of Eden which comes with Jesus the Messiah.

So, as well as the wolf there is a lamb within and the two forces come together in peace. Jesus is the Lamb of God whose gentleness, stronger than all strength, tames the wolf. It is in the surrender of the wolf to the Lamb that true peace is arrived at, the surrender of the self to God.

The harmony, reconciliation and peace that is being shaped within me is what I pray for in society and in every person; praying that Jesus will heal the wound within us that is often the source of the erupting anger that lashes out or lashes myself from within.

"They do no hurt, no harm on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

1 comment:

  1. I remember many years ago trying to come discern the meaning of this passage in scripture but I`ve had to wait all these years to understand it fully. Thanks Eamonn for this prayerful sharing.