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Letting Go of the Monkey Bars

Letting Go of the Monkey Bars |  Sarah Wyland

I’ve never been especially adept at the monkey bars. As a kid, I just couldn’t quite get the hang of it. I didn’t have a lot of upper body strength, and I was overweight, not the best combo for crossing the monkey bars. I once celebrated crossing three whole bars before falling off, and proved much more adept at crossing the monkey rings. Rings swing, my friends. You can use your momentum to get yourself cross those. 

I’m relatively confident that I can cross the monkey bars these days. I haven’t tried in years, but my upper body strength has dramatically increased (hello, weightlifting) and I’m a lot leaner than I was back then. It stands to reason that monkey bars would no longer be an insurmountable obstacle, should I decide to find a playground and attempt to cross them. 

Despite my inability to successfully navigate the monkey bars back in the day, there was still a certain confidence in reaching for the next rung. It was right there, waiting for me to grab it. When releasing one hand, I knew there was something to grab onto. Even though I hit the ground more often than not, there was safety in knowing what I was reaching for when I let go. 

Another thing about me. I like direction. Plans. Blueprints. I’m an Enneagram 3, an “original Type A” as one description put it. I really like to know what’s next. I like to let go of the metaphorical monkey bar and know what I’m about to grab onto. 

But faith doesn’t work like that, does it? 

There’s that saying that goes “jump and the net will appear.” 

That’s the heart of faith – stepping forward into the known, hoping that the water beneath your feet becomes hardwood floor with each step. It’s letting go of the monkey bar, but not knowing what you’re going to grab onto next.  

I stumbled across a sermon by Pastor Steven Furtick recently called “Wind vs. Word (Trusting God’s Timing)” that rocked my world. He asked a big question: 

“How many things are we not doing because the devil told us not to?” 

He also said something so profound (to me) that I wrote it on a post-it note at my desk: 

“When your spirit makes a decision to do something, your mind will find reasons not to do it now.” 

Ain’t that the truth? 

He used the example of starting a diet. You decide this is it. You’re going to do it. You’re going on a diet. But then, you think “well, we’re approaching the holiday season. There’s Halloween coming up, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s… And all the events and parties around them… Now isn’t really a good time to go on a diet. It will be too hard to maintain it. I’ll wait until after the holidays.” 

Next thing you know, you’ve put off your diet for months. 

Or maybe you feel stirred to go on a trip. It might be a mission trip or a “for fun” trip, but you wake up one morning and you know in your soul you need to book a plane ticket. You fire up your laptop, pull up Skyscanner, plug in your dates and destination. You select a flight, check all the boxes. Then, it asks for your credit card. 

Wait a minute. 

You have to pay for this? 

Your mind catches up with your fingers. Your start to think about this. Putting a few hundred dollars (or perhaps more) on your Visa is risky. You’re trying to get out of debt, not go further into it. And it’s not just the plane ticket you have to pay for. There’s the hotel. Food. Transportation. Excursions. Souvenirs. The bottle of shampoo because you forgot yours… 

Nope, can’t do it. 

You close your laptop and walk away, feeling a little melancholy about the plane tickets gone unclaimed, but resigned that this is the rational thing to do, no matter how drawn you feel to this faraway land. 

What if, years later, you’re having dinner with your now fiance and you learn that they were in the same city at the same time that you planned to be there, doing the same things you had planned to do? You could have met years earlier. 

A bit fantastical? Maybe. But stranger things have happened, and you get the point. 

How often has your spirit told you to do something, but your mind found all the reasons not to? As Pastor Stephen says, if you’re looking for a reason not to sow or not to reap, you will find one. We like to sit around and “watch the wind” and wait for “good weather” instead of taking the risks stirring in our souls. 

But God didn’t call us to stay still. He said “be still” but he didn’t say “stay still.” We’re supposed to keep moving. We’re supposed to ignore the wind, no matter how hard it’s blowing, and step into the storm. 

We’re supposed to let go of the monkey bar without knowing what we’re grabbing on to and trust that there will be something to grab, that God will turn the water into hardwood just as our feet start to get damp. 

It’s really hard to let go of the monkey bar if there is no monkey bar to grab or platform to land on. It’s a lot easier to spend time hanging from a bar with two hands or watching the weather channel to decide if you need to stock up on bread and milk ahead of a snow storm that’s still five days out that may or may not hit your area rather than taking the risk of jumping to see what happens. 

I’m as guilty as they come of holding on. To relationships, situations, places.. I like plans and blueprints, remember? If I’m trying to hang on – trying to stay still – I know what’s going on. 

But you know what? 

Each and every time I’ve let go, it has worked out better than I could have imagined for myself. We try really hard to control every moment of every day. We make our lists, draw up our plans, plot all of our data points, share our overbooked calendars with anyone we think might be interested in seeing how busy we are. 

When we let go, when we trust in the unknown, magic is allowed to happen. While it’s not the best idea to let go of the wheel of an actual vehicle, easing up on the death grip you have on the wheel of life often allows the path to take an unexpected turn you never saw coming, but are ultimately grateful for. 

If we take the time to self-reflect, we’re probably all holding on to a monkey bar too tight in some area of our life, aware of that stirring in our soul that says “let go.” If you’re like me, you might even be holding on to the rung in more than one area of your life. 

What if you stopped “watching the wind” and let go, trusting things to unfold? 

Personally, I’ve got a lot of grip strength (again – weightlifting), but even I have recognized its time to let go and reach for the rung I can’t quite see yet. 

What about you? 

Are you going to keep holding on? 

Or are you going to let go and see what you grab ahold of next? 

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