The Wolves Within Us
As we struggle in our spiritual lives, we face “wolves” from the inside and outside who seek to devour us and hinder our spiritual growth. In this excellent article, His Grace Bishop Moussa explains how we can defeat the inner wolves through our Lord Jesus. Transcribed from a lecture given in a conference in 2002.
The topic that we are dealing with is how to face the challenges to our spiritual life from within and without. These challenges are the “wolves” in our lives, inside ourselves and outside. We are like lambs, and the wolves try to feed on us in our inner life and outer life.
Today’s lecture is about the inner wolves – the inner negativities and enemies that may occur in our lives. In order to walk in the right direction in our lives spiritually, socially, and eternally, we are going to address this topic. Eternity is something we should all work for and is the most important decision in our lives, for what will it profit me if I gain everything but lose my eternity? Eternity is the fact, the constant, for as you see, the world is not constant. Recall the World Trade Center – how it ended in an instant. The world and its glory will pass away like that. Therefore, we have to look beyond this world to what lies ahead. The physical world is a fact, but the metaphysical world – what lies beyond this world – is what matters most. Those who only think about this physical world will make a grave mistake; they will be consumed by the limited and not the unlimited, the endless world of eternity, in the kingdom of God.
We were not created with wolves inside and outside of us. This was sin; God created Adam and Eve originally without such wolves inside and outside. They lived in the presence of God and felt His companionship continually in the Garden of Eden. They ate of almost all the fruit in the garden, and specifically of the Tree of Life. They would have lived eternally – if they wanted to. But they made a different choice. We are not regretting this decision very much, though, because it triggered the whole story of salvation, and our Lord God abiding in us and we in Him. As God became man, He called us to be divine. And now, we are going to go upward and upward until we reach the Kingdom of God.
When we were created, we were created in the image of God. We resembled God in wisdom and mind; in love, spirit and virtues – altogether, we call them holiness; freedom and free will; and eternal life. This freedom was the cause of our troubles, but also very important to us – if God imposed Himself on us, we would reject Him. When Adam and Eve abused this freedom, they ate of the tree of knowledge, and they began to lose their enlightened mind when they sinned. Freedom led to the downfall for Adam and Eve; the temptation came from the devil, and God cast them out of the Garden. God, in His love, cast them from the Garden to protect them from eating from the Tree of Life with their fallen state. He wanted them to live eternally, but redeemed, and so He began to prepare for salvation to allow us to be in heavenly paradise with Him.
Thus, we created the wolves – God did not. After creating everything, God found it was all good, and when He created man, He said it was very good. But the wolves began to grow inside of us.
What are these inner wolves? First is the ego. Second is the sinful mind; it was not created to be a wolf, but became so after being darkened by sin. Third is the flesh, but you must know that the body itself is not the problem. It is the sin living in the body, which causes it to be a wolf. For example, the same eye can watch a video of Anba Abraam, and can watch something else that is not good. These are the inner three wolves that may hinder our spiritual growth and our spiritual lives.
1. The Ego as a Wolf
How can the ego be a wolf? The ego can cause pride in ourselves, vainglory and love of ourselves, being confined to ourselves, and isolated from God and others. We believe we are self-sufficient and can do all things without God; very opposite of St. Paul’s message “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Notice that St. Paul did not say, “I can do all things” and stop there, but he realized he can only do these things through God. An ego-centric person does not relate all good things in his life back to God. The ego was the source of the sins in the Garden; the devil fell because he wanted to be like God. Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent because they wanted to be like God.
When you have the Lord in your life, your spirit will increase, but the ego will decrease. St. John the Baptist said this literally – “He must increase and I must decrease.” As long as you are increasing the Lord in your life, the ego will decrease. It is a type of substitution.
That is why we need the Lord in our lives. Through Communion, prayer, service, Bible studies, fasting, and praising, you can take Him in. Through every type of relationship we have with God, we can establish an upward dimension. Sometimes, you have an inner dimension – that is the ego. The earthly dimension is the flesh. No – let us look upward. That’s why the priest in the liturgy says, “Lift up your hearts.” And we reply, “They are with the Lord.” The Lord is our solution; you must have God inside. Think of this analogy: If you look at the heart as a triangular shape, and draw a circle around it to represent the world, you see that these angles around the triangle can never be filled by the circle. It takes a triune God to fill the triangular heart – the love of the Holy Trinity will fill you with joy, holiness, wisdom, freedom and eternity. You will return to the image of God as you were meant to live in.
Thus, to solve the dilemma of the ego, you must have the Lord increasing in your heart to have the ego decreasing.
2. The Mind as a Wolf
With sin, the mind became darkened. Through this darkness, there were many philosophies and deviations of faith that came out of the darkened, unenlightened mind. We have atheism – a rejection of God. We have existentialism, such as Sartre’s philosophy and others. They believe in God, but reject Him, saying “Our Father who art in Heaven, stay there. We don’t want you.” We have pantheism, which believes that God is all around, and everything around us is a part of God and is God – such as this chair. Yes, God created everything, but we cannot consider a chair to be God.
The mind grew dark from sin, but when the mind is enlightened, we will know God, feel His presence, know that He is working in everything, and know that He is the true God who will convey us to the eternal kingdom.
I read a story on the Internet recently. A teacher had a few young girls in her class; she brought them outside to the garden. She asked one of the young girls, “Answer me in front of the other young girls – can you see this tree?” “Yes.”
“Can you see that building?” “Yes.”
“Can you see the sky?” “Yes.”
“Can you see God?” The girl said, “No.” The teacher said, “Therefore, there is no God.”
The other young girls grew very agitated, and one of them asked a question: “Teacher, can see you the tree?”
The teacher responded, “Yes.”
“Can you see the bird there?” “Yes.”
“Can you see the sky?” “Yes.”
“Can you see your brain?” “No,” the teacher responded. The girl told the teacher, “Therefore, you have no brain.”
This is the difference between the enlightened mind and the one full of darkness. Does it make a difference if I can see God or touch Him? Can see you the TV waves? Can you touch electricity (without being electrocuted and sent to the other world)?
Therefore, we need to be enlightened, and can have enlightenment through reading the Bible and Church teachings. The New Age movement tells people they will be enlightened as follows: they instruct the people to go lie on the grass, face the sun wearing protective glasses, and contemplate from morning till night. Then they think they are enlightened.
Enlightened with what? The devil can trick us into thinking we gain knowledge and wisdom, but the true enlightenment comes from the Bible. In the psalms of David, it is written, “Your words are a light in my life and a lamp unto my path.” You need to read a lot in the Bible to enlighten your minds. Christ said, “I am the True Light and you are the light of the world.” If you are enlightened, you will enlighten others and illuminate the way for them, in your jobs, among your relatives and relations, and in everything.
3. The Flesh as a Wolf
The body can be a wolf. It is mentioned in the Bible that the flesh is contradicting and fighting against the soul and the soul is fighting against the flesh. It is not a schism now. It was a schism before Christ, but Christ will do a lot. He will defeat the flesh inside you, and give you the power to control your instincts and motives. Yes, sin is like honey, a poisoned honey. But having a full soul in Christ will prevent sin. As the Proverbs say, a full soul treads over honey.
I know there are a lot of sinful temptations around you, such as pornography over the Internet. Sex is available everywhere and appears to be “normal” and accepted. But you know, this leads to more and more thirst. If you give the flesh salty water, it never quenches. In Christianity, you are going to keep yourself pure until marriage, and in the Lord and in marriage, you are going to keep yourself holy in the Lord and enjoy your marriage and relations in the holiness of the Lord.
That is why there is a motto here: “Instead of ‘safe sex’, ‘save sex’.” You know that safe sex is a huge commercial lie. I have read in American literature, “Don’t hang your life on a piece of rubber.” I remember once, I was with Hs Grace Bishop Thomas on an airplane. A third person was sitting next to us, reading a newspaper. The headline read, “The only prevention from HIV is abstinence.” That is purity. HIV poses a huge threat – 3 million people die a year. Two million die in Africa, and 25% of the people in Africa carry HIV. In Europe is it spreading very quickly.
If you are going to live in the body, you will die in the body. Spirituality is the only thing that can make you victorious. If you live in the spirit, you will be satisfied and sufficed – you will be happy. There is a tight relationship between tension and sexual desire. But if you are happy in the Lord, you will be relieved of this tension and free from abnormal sexual appetite. The reverse is true; if you live a life full of tension, mistakes, guilt, and difficulties, then you are going to search for something to please you. We thank the Lord that the pleasure coming from sin is a temporary one and leads to guilt. But the joy that comes from the Lord is everlasting, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit residing in us. This joy will always keep us satisfied, and we will not need sinful and lustful ways to be satisfied in life.
Thus, to summarize: we deal with the wolves within us in this way:
- The ego – we increase the Lord and decrease the ego.
- The mind – we enlighten our minds with the Word of God.
- The flesh – spirituality will satisfy us and prevent us from seeking lustful pleasures, so that we may “tread upon honey.”