We’ve all heard of the proverbial “monkey on your back,” but have you ever heard of a monkey that has your back? Maybe one who is like the primate in this commercial from a couple of years ago:
From time to time, I think every one of us humans feels like we have a monkey on our backs, something that just seems to be a constant burden. Sometimes we just can’t figure out how to get away from that problem that weighs us down. Some of us can’t cope with an affliction that is just too difficult a load to carry by ourselves.
That’s where the monkey that has your back can help.
A few weekends ago, I attended a Women of Faith Imagine conference with one of my best friends, my life-long gal pal, Annie. I’ve written about her often and if you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve read about her before here.
Annie asked me a couple of months ago to attend the uplifting weekend of worship and encouragement with her and since I’ve never attended Women of Faith before, but always heard awesome things about it, I jumped at the opportunity to go.
My friend doesn’t live close to me, so we decided to stay overnight in a fancy, schmancy hotel near the arena where the conference was to be held instead of driving back and forth from the city. It promised to be a lot of fun, two old friends having a pajama party, just like all those nights we stayed at each other’s houses in our youth. We both were eager and excited when Annie swung by my house early Friday morning to pick me up for our drive into the city.
Friday morning’s sessions didn’t disappoint us. The first speaker was Sheila Walsh, a beautiful person with a beautiful voice and message. My pen flew across my notebook as I jotted down key points I wanted to remember. Listening to her sing “How Great Thou Art” was simply like hearing an angel – really, she gave me goosebumps.
Next up on the agenda, psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud asked us to imagine a place where we’d find happiness. Again my pen scurried across the open pages of my notebook. I nodded in complete agreement when he stated, “Only 10% of your happiness comes from circumstances.”
He imparted much truth to us from God’s Word and the wisdom God has granted him about letting go of the past, making necessary endings to reach our tomorrows, and about pruning areas of our lives. All of it was great stuff, so insightful and meaningful.
He declared that happy people are connected. Whoa, that hit home. I find myself writing a good deal about connections here in my blog and thinking about connections even more. I realized a long time ago that connections do bring me happiness, especially my real connection, my relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ.
Dr. Cloud also relayed a story that will stick with me for a very long time. The monkey story. (“Aha, there’s the connection!” you’re probably thinking.)
It seems that if you put a single monkey in a cage and bombard it with loud, annoying noises that startle the animal repeatedly and unexpectedly and shake its cage violently, you could frighten a monkey to death. I imagine the poor thing’s heart rate would rapidly accelerate, blood pressure would rise, and a sense of panic and alarm would overwhelm the creature.
Sounds like everyday life to some of us humans! But, according to Cloud, research reveals that if you put another monkey in the cage with the first one, continue the noises and frightening occurrences, both monkeys will survive and not be as greatly affected by the disturbances. Two monkeys will help one another cope, protect one another, support each other.
We need one another, just like those monkeys did, to get through our trials and burdens of life. So, Cloud instructed an arena of 8,000 women to “Go find yourself a monkey!”
If we were at the event with a good friend, he told us to look at her and say, “You’re my monkey!” Well, that initiated Annie’s and my theme for the weekend. I glanced at her, she turned to me, and we both laughed out loud and exclaimed, “You’re my monkey!” And you guessed it, all weekend we called each other “my monkey.”
The rest of the weekend was great – amazing music by Natalie Grant, Mary, Mary, and WOF worship team. We heard heartwarming talks from Lisa Harper, Nicole Johnson, Angie Smith, and Luci Swindoll. So much good food for thought crammed into two days.
But the thing I’m going to remember? Saturday afternoon, two older ladies we’d never seen before entered the arena after the break and sat down in our row. Both Annie and I noticed them, looked at each other, and stifled giggles. These two ladies each had a monkey hanging on them!
They proudly wore those long-armed, long-legged stuffed monkeys, the kind with the Velcro tabs in their hands, wrapped around their necks. One lady had a bright pink monkey, the other gal had a lavender one. We overheard them tell someone they had purchased their monkeys in their hotel gift shop.
I have never in my life tried so hard not to just break down in hysterical laughter. And what made it even funnier? My dearest friend, Annie, friend of my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood, turned to me and said, “I am NOT wearing a monkey around my neck for you!”
And that doesn’t matter because through thick and thin, youth and middle age, good times and bad, I know she has my back and I have hers. And that’s something significant that contributes to our happiness – a true friend, one who sticks with you no matter what, is your confidante, and also your accountability partner for life.
And those friends, our “monkeys,” are gifts from God. He sends us those people to come beside us and help us on our journey through this life. Many of you fulfill that role for me, and I hope and pray I am one of those gifts for you. I’m reminded on this 21st page of Chapter 10 in my yearly book of Opportunity that God’s Word tells us two are better than one.
“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:8-10
My prayer is that we all would have those people in our lives – those dear ones who listen when we struggle, offer encouragement to us in godly ways, and pray for us and with us as we endure the hardships of life.
Who is your monkey?