A few years ago we had a team event at work. At the event there was a mini rap battle. One of my co-workers wrote a rap in which he spoke about the monkey on his back followed by a litany of all his daily chores.
We laughingly teased the supervisor that she was the monkey and that she needed to get off the young man’s back. That being said, don’t you sometimes just feel as though you have a big ole’ monkey on your back?
Not one of those cute ones that’s curious about their surroundings … one of those really heavy ones that hang on to you like dead weight.
That’s how I feel sometimes. The problem is my monkey keeps changing shapes. Sometimes it’s the bills and all the expenses that scare my pay check into nothingness.
Sometimes it’s the boatload of chores and responsibilities that seem to pile up as the days go by.
Sometimes the monkey is all about comparison – he gibbers about all the things that other people have and I don’t.
He chatters about all the things we didn’t dream about in high school – the spouse that sometimes feel more like a roommate than an exotic lover, the child that is just a little bit too much like you for the two of you to get along, jobs that don’t stay within the boundaries of 9 to 5 but instead press way past not because you love it...
But because there’s so much to be done. I could go on but I’m afraid if I do my voice will sound less like me and more like that of a gibbering baboon.
At times like this I wish my monkey was a little bit more like Paul and a lot less like the children of Israel. Like, why can’t my monkey say, “I’ve learnt in all states to be content” instead of creating a top ten list of all the things that could have gone better that day.
I’ve decided to talk back to my monkey. To get a monkey to listen you first have to tame him. In typical fashion, I googled ‘how to tame a monkey’. Wikipedia had this to say about training a monkey:
1. Build or buy a monkey cage.
2. Monkey-proof your house.
3. Keep the monkey's space clean.
4. Provide clean water bottles every day.
5. Feed him monkey biscuits, fruits and vegetables.
Are you still with me? Good. Are you are tired of carrying around the monkey on your back? Do you want to learn how to train your monkey? Let’s figure out how to do it together by examining each of the five steps above in more detail.
1. Build or buy a monkey cage. The first thing we have to do is take the monkey off our back. It’s going to be a struggle because they are wriggly little things and won’t give up their stranglehold so easily. Doesn’t that feel better?
Now obviously we can’t let it lose because it will go right back to the place it’s familiar with … and you know we don’t want him there anymore.
Paul tells us in II Corinthians 10:5 that we should “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,” and that we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
That means when our monkey comes gibbering gibberish we ought to know that it’s not from God. If the thought doesn’t come from Christ then we should grab hold of it and speak truth to it.
Now social media is one of those areas where we all fall down. Everybody’s clothes, house, car and food are out there for you to see and it’s prettier than yours. Now when the thought comes we need to say:
“Hold on there little monkey, it doesn’t matter what her stuff looks like. It’s not mine. It’s not for me. God has given me everything that I need and he has my best interests at heart. I don’t need stuff to be complete.”
2. Monkey-proof your house. Paul warns us that we should not to give any room to the devil. This piece of advice is squished between an admonition against sinning in anger and stealing (Ephesians 4:26-28).
Now everybody knows that if you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile. Satan is the kind of guest who, after being invited inside, eventually becomes a remote hog, pillow hog and bathroom hog.
He will take more than you intended to give. To prevent him from doing that you have to keep him on the outside.
It begins with a thought. A single thought that created an image in your mind, a desire in your heart, a temptation to sin.
That’s why it’s so important to stop those thoughts from breaking in. it’s a whole lot easier to resist temptation when you limit exposure to those things that would tempt you than it is top fight it off once you’ve been exposed.
3. Keep the monkey's space clean. Now this one, we’re going to rephrase it a little bit: do not keep the monkey's space clean. We really don’t want him to come back so we’re going to want to put something else in its place.
If your monkey is ungratefulness, you’ll want to fill the space with gratitude. If your monkey is worry, you’ll want to focus on trusting Jehovah who is bigger than all our worries.
Matthew 10:43-45 has a very interesting story about a demon who is driven out and goes away seeking a new home and, finding none, he returns home with seven of his companions even more evil than he is.
Can you imagine if your monkey came back with seven of his primate friends? Especially seven who were bigger and scarier than he is?
So what do we put in the Space Formerly Occupied by Monkey? Why, I’m glad you asked. Read on my friend.
4. Provide clean water bottles every day. There’s something to be said about water: our bodies are 75 percent water without it we die of thirst, our animals could not survive and neither could our plants. Is it any wonder then that Jesus called himself living water?
So here’s what we’re going to do: fill up on water - lots and lots of clean water. Only we’re not going waste our water on a monkey – we’re going to use it to fill and refresh ourselves.
It’s important for us to spend time in the presence of the one from whom all the springs flow. Are you spending time with God?
Could it be that the monkey feels heavier than normal because you are not giving your burdens to the one who is able to offer freedom and a lighter burden?
“Come to me,” he says, “If you are tired and carrying heavy burdens. Let me help you. Replace your heavy burdens with the yoke that I will give you and see the difference.”
Are you ready to put down your monkey? Why not give it to Jesus?
5. Feed him monkey biscuits, fruits and vegetables. Again, we’re making a slight alteration to this step – just pretend you’re at the zoo, do not feed the animals. If you feed the monkey he’s going to get fat.
The fatter he gets the heavier he will be and the more difficult he’ll be to carry. Besides, everyone knows that you shouldn’t feed strays because before you know it you’ll have a pet that you didn’t want. What we are going to do instead is feed ourselves on good things.
In the words of Paul, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8 NKJV).”
If we feed on good things like patience, love, gratitude, hope then we will eventually be transformed from the inside out. Pretty soon we’ll be detestable to monkeys and will forever be free of any possibility of monkey infestation.
What are your tips for ridding yourself of the monkey on your back? Share them with us in the comments below.
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