As 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