A Monkey Trap is made of a hollow gord or coconut, secured to a chain. A hole on top is made big enough for a monkey to stick in his hand, but not wide enough to pull it back out if he grabs a treat placed inside, like a banana. Ironically, the little fellow remains stuck only by his refusal to let go.
This idea of a Monkey Trap often is used to illustrate destructive patterns or addictions–how they keep people stuck under their own power. From chemicals to cable news, what we consume can consume us we use them to medicate bad feelings and avoid the underlying cause.
So, let’s peel back a layer for a minute and ask, “What fiction drives self-destruction, and what truth can set us free?” The three statements below affirm what author Francis Schaeffer called, the really real. They have been known to free people from lesser ties that bind. But they have little if any power until we see them in contrast to whatever we have been trusting and basing our lives upon, personally. What we live for really is our master.
1) There is a God, and it is not me.
We all can feel as though the universe owes us something. Disappointment can expose these expectations. We believe we have a right to what we want. A story about a man named Job examines whether or not it makes sense to consider ourselves entitled to anything. At the end of the story, Job realizes that nothing he lost had been promised to him. Making demands as a test of God’s justice is one of the most common ways people get stuck in their pain. They hold the universe hostage to those demands, but they themselves end up trapped. Job experienced a spiritual breakthrough when he admitted to himself: “There is a God and it is not me.” (My summary.)
2) I am unworthy but not worthless.
If it were possible to compile only an hour’s worth of your worst thoughts and acts on dvd, playing it before a live studio audience, would you stay for the show? I heard a story about a man who was able to hold his head high through something similar. He was a POW in Germany and his captors had discovered everything they could find out about his past. During an intense interrogation, they used this evidence in an attempt to break his will–a tactic that worked to get many prisoners to talk. However, this time his accusers were struck dumb by the response. During an extended session that exposed the error and shame of his ways, the man looked back into the eyes of his captors and said, “You don’t know the half of it.” What would give someone the freedom from his past in the midst of its accurate accounting? At some point he had made peace with it. It’s a peace which has confidence to say, “I am unworthy but not worthless.” How did he make this spiritual breakthrough?
3) My future is brighter than I might hope.
For many people, the word forgiveness does not seem like a complete answer to this question. Any of us may discount its power when seen in theory but not experienced in practice. Getting up-close and personal with God’s distant promise of forgiveness risks exposure and requires trust. Like Adam and Eve, some would rather maintain a little dignity behind the cover of accomplishments, good deeds, or social skills.
Ironically, even apart from those outward layers, shame itself can become a fig leaf when we count it a virtue to suffer with it. As long as we consider self-reproach to be a sign of virtue, we stay stuck. In the end, it’s pride that keeps us from forgiveness. The spiritual breakthrough comes when we, like that prisoner of war, have courage to admit our condition is worse than we can measure. Forgiveness then becomes more than a distant promise as we begin to see the need and to place our trust in it as something more than we could ask or imagine.