Much like crossing monkey bars

Monkey BarsAs quoted by C.S. Lewis, “getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.” One of my most vivid childhood memories involves monkey bars. I was in first or second grade in a Catholic school. It was recess and I was playing on the handmade, wood playground – crossing the monkey bars. The next thing I know, I’m sitting myself up out of the woodchips, dazed and confused looking around – everyone was gone. Recess was over and everyone had gone back into class – leaving me laying there in the woodchips! Had I fallen and hit my head? That is the only logical presumption. Scarred for life? I’d say many occurrences during my tenure at this Catholic school scarred my heart.

I can’t remember playing on monkey bars again as a child. The next experience I remember with monkey bars is when we installed the incline/decline monkey bars at UFF for Tough Mudder training. There was a significant amount of anxiety preceding my first crossing. A – I wasn’t a huge fan of monkey bars. B – I’m afraid of heights. I watched several others journey across before I had the courage. And that first time, I had my spotter follow me all the way across in case I slipped. I DID IT! Then I did it again…and again. I crossed the monkey bars 4 times that day, filming the 4th!

The second half of the C.S. Lewis quote, “You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” In the case of the monkey bars, I needed to let go of fear. It took me several days, but then I just did it – but I DID NOT DO IT ALONE! I had the support of my closest friends (and physical challengers?!?!!!) and one of my most trusted friends to guide and see me across. And once I had that first successful experience, I was able to dig deep into my own strength to propel forward over the bars.

It sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Crossing the monkey bars? You start with your full weight suspended from a bar, holding on for dear life with both hands. You must release one hand to reach for the next rung. For the duration of the crossing, you are holding onto your bodyweight with the strength and skill of one arm at a time!

We go through much of life with one hand on a rung at a time. Maybe one hand is tied behind your back, and you are overusing the other. Maybe one hand is always holding someone else up. Or maybe….that half of you is living in the past – heartbroken, bitter, resentful, angry, jealous, or more.

When do we let go so that we can reach for the next rung in life? How do we recognize that something or someone is grasping tightly to that arm, preventing us from propelling forward? I believe that sometimes we just need to reach and see what happens. I wouldn’t have crossed the monkey bars without letting go of the rungs behind me. This experience is incredibly sentimental for me (as are many other physical achievements). With each rung I released behind me I was letting go of the painful childhood memories and moving forward. Not only was I moving forward, I wanted to do it again! I had an adrenaline high.

What can you let go of while crossing the monkey bars? Maybe you visualize the monkey bars and imagine that with each release you are letting go just a little – of pain, disappointment, or anger. Or maybe you need to find a playground – most aren’t so high as to be concerned of heights. You may find this to be a therapeutic exercise…

Be stong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

Letting go is NOT giving up

Many of us have great difficulty letting go. Letting go closely resembles quitting or giving up, yet these are not synonymous. Unfortunately, knowing this doesn’t free our thoughts and feelings from relating them. I, for one, am terrible at letting go of things I love and value. I don’t want to let go of things that give me comfort or allow me to experience that feel good feeling. But how often are the things in life that we love and value actually harmful? How many of us love someone who often hurts us? How many of us find comfort in our daily routines, afraid to step out into something different? Yet sometimes we easily give up – for example on diets, exercise regimes, Bible studies, school, jobs, etc. It is almost as if we hold onto what is easy and give up on what we perceive as hard…and then often finding ourselves needing to start over.

If you're tired of starting over, stop giving up.

I think that something can be said about allowing something other than God to have too much control or power over our feelings of happiness and comfort. With all the significant change I have been going through recently, it often feels like I’m quitting time and time again. I am one who sticks to commitments through the dire end. But I have been in a few situations that have challenged my morality and integrity – both as a professional and as a woman – and in which I have had to strongly consider letting go of those commitments. How do we know for ourselves when we are letting go rather than giving up? One way of thinking about this is to think of letting go as an act of giving it to God. I’ve had a couple of relationships that I have had to let go of this past year. I can honestly say that I let go, because I implemented some healthy boundaries and I put the next steps in those relationships into God’s hands. I also equate giving up to being easy to do and letting go to being more difficult. Lastly, I would say that giving up leaves me feeling uneasy, whereas letting go provides a sense of relief.

What are some of the reasons we quit or give up? I am known to quit when I think that I am not good at something, feel like I’m not perfect and as a result will fail. I tend to quit, kidding myself that when it is my choice it is easier to cope with the failure. The truth is, it’s not easier. Another truth is, I am more than likely NOT failing at whatever it may be.

So how do you know you are letting go versus giving up? I think we all need some assistance clarifying the difference.

Isaiah 55: 9 “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”