When my youngest son was a toddler, he was a runner. Let him out of his car seat and he had no intention of staying with you. He would take off, or he may try the opposite of dragging his feet and lingering behind. It was quite unnerving to this mother of four. As they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures” I resorted to those “desperate measures” … I got a leash. At first, I struggled with the idea. I had judged other moms with their toddlers in leashes before the realization came that I needed to become “one of those moms”. So, with no shame, I went to Walmart and found the cutest little leash. It looked like a monkey back pack that you would strap on the toddler. Then the tail that came off the monkey was the leash. The cuteness of the leash took away the sting of guilt I felt when I put it on him and grabbed the tail. At least I had the runner contained.
Everything was great until the day I took him downtown to trick or treat the business of our small town. I attempted to put the cute little leash on him. At that point my son had figured out how restricted he felt his life was with it. He decided to throw a toddler revolt like none other. He started screaming as loud as he could, “I DON’T WANT THE MONKEY ON MY BACK!!” over and over as he threw himself face down on the sidewalk. We ended up in an agreement that day. I told him if he would hold my hand and stay very close to me, I would leave the monkey off, but if he tried anything at all, the monkey would be on his back again. This became a regular threat that seemed to work with him. As I unbuckled him from his seat, I would tell him he could walk on his own and hold my hand. But just one time of him leaving my side and I would get out the monkey. He would say with the most sincerity, “Ok momma, I don’t want the monkey on my back. Please don’t put him on my back.” Win for mom. Win for son.
There are a lot of parallels between my toddler son with his monkey leash and me with life. There are so many “monkeys” that can be strapped to my back. Some of them I put on willingly, some I have put on me, some I’m not sure what happened exactly but I’ve found it strapped on and confining me. I, like my son, do not like having “the monkey on my back”. So, I go to God and ask Him to set me free. God most assuredly does set me free, but the degree to which I experience the freedom from the “monkey” is also related to the degree to which I walk closely to God. I am sure I am not alone in my disdain for the “monkeys”. “Monkeys” such as addiction, anxiety, depression, etc. just to name a few, plague us all. It’s the whole reason Jesus came. He knows we all experienced the bondage of the “Monkeys”, but He also knows how to remove and dispose of the “Monkeys”.
I’ve been contemplating a couple of verses in Psalms the past few days, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Psalms 32:7-8
God wants to keep us close. He’s extended the invitation to us to “Come near to God and He will come near to us…” James 4:8 His desire to keep us close is for our own good. We may not always understand the paths He wants us to walk down, but He wants us to hold his hand and walk with Him. We, on the other hand, get our own ideas of where we want to go and what we want to do. We may run ahead trying to figure out where exactly we’re going so we can try to control what happens, or we may do our best to lag behind, drag our feet, and avoid the path God brings us to due to fear of what may come. God wants us to not be like that. His reasons are for our good. He wants to “instruct us and teach us in the way we should go.” and all this with “His loving eye on us.” He loves us. That’s the motivation, love. God instructs us to not be like a horse that needs a bit and bridle to come close to Him. He looks at us much like I looked at my toddler son. I preferred to not have “the Monkey on his back”. But I did what I had to insure He understood how important it was for him to stay nearby. Ultimately it was for his safety and well-being. Ultimately, me staying close to God, listening to His still small voice, and responding to His leading is for my spiritual safety and well-being as well. God doesn’t want to see me with a proverbial “monkey on my back” as well, He wants me free. But that freedom and safety only comes as I am close to Him and experience His love. The things that entice and entrap me only have their power to do so when I find myself doing my own thing resisting the closeness of being by His side, or hiding from Him because I don’t see Him as He is, a loving Father.
Jesus said in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” John 14:6. He is in the business of getting rid of our “monkeys”. The question is, “Will I walk close enough and be open enough to Him to let Him do it?”
(Side note: while preparing this Blog my son, now 16 saw the above picture of the Monkey Leash. He said, “What on earth is that for?!?!” I told Him my Blog. He then replied, “Oh… I hate that thing!” Lol)