I’ve been holding on to hope for a while now. Definitely the longest I ever have consistently in my life. The longer I hold on to this hope, the harder it gets and the more it hurts.
This experience is all too familiar. It’s a deep pain. One I used to experience as a child. One that could only be experienced at one place…the playground.
All of this grown up, adult-level processing and pain is reminding me of some daggone monkey bars!!
I can remember as a kid playing on the yellow monkey bars at my elementary school, which also happen to be where I had my first kiss but that’s a story for another blog post found here.
Back to the point…I can recall climbing up the bars on the side to make myself tall enough to reach the first bar positioned above. I’d take a hold of that first bar and release my feet, allowing them to hang freely.
I’d confidently reach my right arm out and grab a hold of the next bar, then my left…”yes! I’m doing this!” By bar three I’m feeling strong and accomplished. And then I reach the middle of the monkey bars.
Suddenly what was so easy has become a great challenge. My hands start burning from my tight, raw grip. My arms weaken because of the weight of my body. I’m now stuck, in the middle, with no strength to go forward.
It’s at this point that I usually would hang for a moment, trying to muster up enough strength to make it to the next bar so that I could complete the goal of making it across all of the bars.
“Can I do this?”
“Do I have enough strength?”
“How much further do I have to go?”
“Is this pain worth it?”
I’d let go —midway through.
Feet hitting the rocky gravel.
Hands red and throbbing.
I’d shake my arms ridding them of the pain.
And then…I’d walk away.
“Well, at least I tried.”
I was content because I tried. I’d move on to do something else, technically defeated, but personally disinterested in accomplishing the goal that was originally set before me.
So I know, you’re rolling your eyes because not being a finisher of the monkey bars in elementary school isn’t quite a detrimental life-altering failure, but follow me here.
My life lately has been a series of monkey bars. In fact it seems I’m on a sort of obstacle course where I’m running back and forth from one set of monkey bars to the next. On each of these sets of monkey bars I’ve made it to a certain distance.
Let’s say each monkey bar set has 6 bars. My current progress would look something like this:
- Monkey Bar Set 1: bar 2
- Monkey Bar Set 2: bar 3
- Monkey Bar Set 3: bar 4
- Monkey Bar Set 4: bar 2
I can see the end but getting to the end of each set is getting harder because now I’m not just trying to make it across one monkey bar set, I’m actually working on four sets at once, having to share my time and energy among all four.
It’s the perfect time to drop, thump, shake and walk away, but I can’t. I won’t.
Why not though? I mean, you’ve never made it across the monkey bars before!
Why now, when it’s more challenging and hurts like it never has before?
Why keep holding on when those red and worn hands are starting to develop blisters?
The difference between now and my childhood attempts is one thing: Hope.
When I was a child, going across those monkey bars was just a fun idea – a personal challenge. But today, at the end of each of these monkey bars, I see a promise. At the other end of the monkey bars is a prize that’s only given to the one who endures.
One monkey bar truth that I will carry over is when I was a kid, I was never concerned about how long it would take me to get across those bars, I tried to make it at any pace that I could.
That is exactly how I feel today. It doesn’t matter if it takes me a year to get to the next bar, I am determined this time to not let go.
In each of the areas I’m walking through, letting go would probably yield very different results.
- For one, letting go means giving up and never receiving the promise.
- For another letting go means forfeiting the prize to someone else.
- For the next, letting go means starting over.
- For the last, it means succumbing to apathy.
Not the most appealing results right?
And so I continue to hold. Hands blistering, bleeding, and on the verge of turning blue.
Because I have a hope.
A hope that has anchored my soul in a way that my body and mind, cannot convince me that the pain is greater than the prize.
Holding on to this hope hurts.
And the crazy thing is that as much as this hope hurts, I’d hold onto it for 10 more years if I had to. 20 more even!
- Because I believe God’s promises are worth it.
- Because I believe God is true to Himself and His word.
- Because I believe God loves me too much to wave a promise in front of me and not deliver on it.
- Because I believe God has provided a clear, straight and direct way to the promise.
His instructions? One bar at a time, on a straight and narrow path.
I’m preaching to myself on this one, but echoing these words to anyone else who may relate to this journey in any way.
Keep holding on.
Hold until you’ve mustered enough strength to move that right arm from one bar to the next. Hang there straddled between two bars until you’ve gained enough strength to move your left arm forward. Now you’re one bar closer to receiving that promise. You’re one bar closer to seeing the faithfulness of your Father manifest. You are closer.
Yep, I know it’s burning.
Yep, I know it hurts.
Yep, I know you’re bleeding.
But guess what? You aren’t without options in this pain and process.
You can hold still.
You can strain.
You can make an ugly face.
You can pull up for a quick breather.
You can scream.
You can shift your weight.
You can kick.
You can cry.
You can call someone over to lift your legs for a little bit of relief.
But whatever you do, don’t let go.
– Hebrews 10:36