Wolves, surely one of the most magnificent of all of God’s creatures: Powerful… Majestic… Beautiful!
Wolves are not only one of God’s most captivating creatures, but in all the animal kingdom, their behavior and family dynamic are attributes from which we humans possibly could learn the most. With brains that are 30% larger than those of dogs, their intelligence and significantly broader emotional capacities make them more like a cross between a lion and a human than a dog—at least that’s what the last fifty thousand hours I’ve spent with them have shown me.
Having spent the past fifteen years living amongst, interacting with, and spending all day, every day, working right alongside well over a hundred abused wolves and wolfdogs, at times, the only difference I see between them and people is their inability to carry on an audible conversation with us.
Prior to starting the wolf sanctuary, I spent nearly three decades in the Health and Fitness industry where I authored two books in the field and produced a golf-specific fitness video. For the past several years, many people have been urging me to write another book, only this one about wolves—more specifically, about what I’ve learned from these awesome animals, the life-changing process that accompanied God showing me who and what they are in this world, and most importantly, the near identical manner in which they respond to the grace we extend them here, to how people respond to God’s grace—once they genuinely grasp it, that is.
But the responsibilities of caring for five dozen wolves and wolf dogs—the number of which we average here at all times—and doing so with extremely limited financial and personnel resources was already more than I could handle. So I’d always readily dismiss the idea, even though I thought about it often and knew that what I had to say about my experiences with them would be of significant value to people, and positively impact animals.
But now, years later, after many surgeries, what feels like a dozen lifetimes of physical pain, enough heartbreak and despair to paralyze a small community, and most recently, a near-fatal accident—at fifty-seven years old—God has given me a clear vision of the story He wants me to share and revealed the potentially life-transforming power of its purpose. So, despite the enormous 24-7 responsibilities here, and after speaking with my wife about it—who for the record, has also been urging me to write this book—I’ve made the decision to step out on faith and “get-er-done,” as they say.
Now The Sanctuary isn’t just about wolves. Oh, you’ll learn a lot about them in this book. After the first three chapters, they’re discussed in intimate detail throughout—things about them and their deep emotional lives that have never before been published and cannot be learned from any other source. So in this respect, you’re certain to learn more about wolves from this book than you could have ever imagined, and for that alone, it’s well worth the read—not to mention the hundreds of incredible pictures that reveal something new each time you view them.
But well before you finish reading it, you’ll realize that as much as you’re learning about the mental, emotional, and physical lives of the rescued wolves here at the sanctuary, this book is really about you. In fact, it’s actually about all of us—especially me.
You see, The Sanctuary is an amazing story of one man’s extremely difficult—fifty-plus-year—journey from condemnation to grace, with the final twelve-year victorious stretch involving over fifty thousand hours living amongst these most awesome of God’s creatures, and seeing their miraculous transformations—as a result of the grace we extended to them.
Over the course of this decade-plus-long wilderness experience—one in which, for years, I’ve referred to as my incarceration with animals, oak trees, and the Holy Spirit—the Lord gave me a deep insight into who and what these majestic creatures are in this world, their near-identical responses to mental and emotional pain, loss, and trauma to those of ours, and the life-transforming power grace has in them, just as His grace has in us—once we genuinely grasp it.
Paul Young, the author of The Shack, says, “We are all uniquely damaged and we are all uniquely healed.” The unique damage these almost human animals suffered at the hands of man, and their individual paths to healing are powerful, heartwarming stories, capable of sparking a sense of awe and wonder in even the most insensitive of people.
But the real value in their stories is in how they relate to us, the comparisons in our—people and wolves—unique types of damage, and our personal paths to healing. And most importantly, their perceptions of us, our providence, and how we feel about them, compared to our perceptions of God, His Providence, and how He feels about us. This is the core message of the book!
Now, early on, you’ll read a lot about the abuse I endured throughout my childhood—things that some might refer to as “whining” or blaming your past for your failures. However, understanding the impact that abuse had on me—in the most formative period of my childhood—is foundational to understanding the wolves’ perceptions of people and situations following their abusive pasts. But more importantly, it’s critical to understanding their individual paths to healing, and their ongoing development of intimacy with us here at the sanctuary. And why is this important?
So you can acquire a more complete and beneficial understanding of God’s grace through Jesus Christ—as it applies to you, your situations, and your life—and come to see the relationship He desires to have with you and all people.
Pastor Joseph Prince, of Joseph Prince Ministries, New Creation Church in Singapore, and Grace Revolution Church in Dallas, Texas—the one I listen to the most—once said,
“Remember the saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me? Well, that’s completely false! Bones will heal in a matter of months, but when a parent repeatedly speaks condemning words toward their young children, it can take fifty years to undo the damage.”
This was incredibly enlightening to me, as Pastor Prince’s fifty-year timeline was certainly accurate in my case. But regardless of the amount of time it takes to undo one’s damage, there are hidden gems in every storm, in every valley, on every mountain, and at every turn along the journey—gems intended to be shared with others.
Those with the greatest amount of wisdom are usually those who’ve had significant struggles, experienced many failures—whether their fault or not—have suffered much tragedy and loss, and therefore display many scars.
Yet through divinely inspired perseverance, and often just continuing to put one foot in front of the other—when there’s no end to our suffering in sight—we eventually arrive at the place God was leading us all along. Once there, we can look back and see the hundreds of small victories He helped us achieve along the way and come to realize that the ultimate triumph in our life was in the development of a new perception of God, a realization of how much He loves us, and the development of a more intimate relationship with Him.
Now in chapters four and five, there are a lot of seemingly redundant points made about addiction, recovery, and family dysfunction—and a few about condemnation as well—redundancies that publishers today may remove to make the story flow better. However, these points are far more valuable to the reader than a perfect storyline is to me. Besides, each reiteration follows a different situation and is explained from a slightly different angle. And since people hear and interpret things differently, explaining complex issues in different ways helps ensure that they’re understood by all. That being said, the redundancies in this book are no more redundant than the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are in the Bible, or the books written by the apostle Paul—Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, and so on.
If God deemed it necessary to give multiple accounts and explanations of what He considered important in His book, I’m comfortable doing so in this one—especially considering the complexity of the issue, and the worldwide dilemma one of them has given birth to.
Now, the heavier emphasis on this dilemma—in the latter part of chapter five—may seem to put the story on hold for a few pages. However, it’s important to continue reading through it, because again, people hear things differently, and each seemingly redundant point ties in biblically with something in the subsequent chapters—not to mention that they’re all necessary to adequately illuminate the problem, and help you understand how it has impacted nearly every family on the planet! Afterward, you’ll have a deeper insight into how it infiltrates and affects the entire family—as well as the Christian community—and how it’s subtly passed from generation to generation, before discovering that the storyline picks up right where it left off, exactly as intended.
This is not a book about my personal victories, but one of massive enlightenment and profound revelation into how God feels about us—that’s me and you—and the power of His grace through Jesus Christ.
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Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary is a 501c3 non-profit corporation. All donations are tax-deductible.