In the sermon I preached a few weeks ago, you might remember that I encouraged us to notice where we were holding onto things in our lives so tightly that we weren’t able to open ourselves to God’s love. I definitely need to learn this lesson as well, which is why I was glad to be reminded today of the old story about how to catch a monkey.
The technique involves using a hollowed out coconut that has a small hole cut into it just big enough for the monkey’s hand. Then you slide a small banana inside, and wait for the monkey to do the inevitable — to reach inside and grab the banana. But then it turns out they are stuck, because most monkeys aren’t willing to let go of the banana in order to remove their hand from the coconut. And of course, as long as their hand is stuck in the coconut, they can’t eat the banana either! (For a delightful variation on this conundrum, see this short clip of Homer Simpson with his hands stuck inside two vending machines!)
The story is a good reminder of how often we get stuck in life because we are holding onto things that aren’t doing us any good. Sometimes we’re holding onto negative stuff: outdated ideas of ourselves, toxic relationships, old griefs and losses. We somehow think we need that stuff, and we can’t seem to let go. And sometimes we’re holding onto positive things, or things we think are positive — the psychic versions of bananas, or sodas and candy. But try as we might, we can’t get our hands unstuck, and so we end up not even being able to enjoy these seemingly wonderful things.
It turns out that when our hands are full of all these old useless things, we miss all the new gifts that God and God’s creation have to offer us right now. Only by letting go of these old distractions can we pull our hands out of the coconut (or vending machines!), and receive the love and blessings that our divine-given life has to offer us.
What might you be able to let go of today?!