I was about ten years old when I first heard the story of the monkey trap. The general idea is a hunter makes a hole in a coconut just big enough for a monkey’s hand to fit and ties it to a tree. He then puts some food or a shiny object inside. The monkey reaches into the coconut and grabs the food, but isn’t able to remove his closed fist (my daughter does this to me with the potato chips bag all the time). The monkey refuses to let go of his prize and is consequently captured. I don’t even know if this is real, but the moral of the story is fairly obvious.
I get the concept, but still, one of the least helpful pieces of advice you could ever hear (or give) is, “just let go”. It’s well-meaning advice, to be sure. Even so, it is often a shallow solution to a deeper problem. That shiny object can be an idea, a habit or even a person. Or, it could be something painful–like the pervasive sense of self-loathing that comes from a constant battle with depression, fear or failure.
“Just let go” doesn’t cut it.
If I was a monkey with my hand stuck in a coconut, I would want a wise best-friend monkey who–instead of giving me shallow advice–would offer me something else to grab hold of. It is impossible to let go of something for nothing. That thing we need to grab hold of is Truth. I have to embrace the truth that I am not what I do. Depression is not who I am. The real me is vibrant and worthy of love–loved by God and the people who truly know me. On a good day, I am able to grab hold of the truth and let go of the lies. Often, it is a much longer process to release the shame and sadness that threatens to choke me out.
Who is your wise best-friend monkey? The easy answer is God, but how God offers us truth is important. God reaches out to us in the Bible. The psalms, for example, are overflowing with truth in the midst of pain. Proverbs offers deep wisdom in letting go. Another important place God offers us truth is in church community. As we entrust ourselves to others in our church family, they are empowered by God’s Spirit to give us the truth we need to cling to.
Generally speaking, it takes ten cups of coffee (not all at once) with a person for you to be able to trust each other and speak into each other’s lives. Remember, it is the Spirit that speaks through us which means, we don’t have to know what to say to rescue each other with the truth–sometimes it’s better if we don’t say anything at all.
Get started on that ten cups of coffee. Don’t wait until you’re stuck to seek out the people God longs to use to speak truth into your life and free you from the cycles of lies and pain.