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"Many times they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me" (Ps 129:2).
Nursing the wounds of rejection is the worst. But such is life. When I'm down and struggle to keep my chin up for what I deem a responsible-adult-length of time, I read books. A personal saving grace 'til the day I die. Thank you, Anne Lamott, for Bird by Bird, where you advise your students to write about their childhoods.
Because I'm weird (my friend Jeane insists, only in the best way), I've decided to take a recent crappy adult break-up and transform it into a story that takes place in the life of a child. This is the miraculous gift of rejection. It invites us to feel our deepest childhood wounds. And heal.
The Gorilla and The Girl
Once upon a time there was a gorilla who lived alone in a cage. Over the years he'd come to see the cage as his cave. His home, if you will. Like all animals who live in confinement, the gorilla's daily schedule required human contact for stimulation. Always on his own terms. Some days he hid, ignoring the coaxing to come out and be seen. Other days he appeared from his cave and presented a good show. The humans all raved about his goodness, and then the gorilla would return to his cave feeling quite good about himself.
This, he believed, was all he needed. He didn't need human touch, he had a television. He didn't need to change, he could change light bulbs. He opened doors for everyone, but opened his heart to no one.
One day a little girl came across the gorilla's cage. He was no where in sight. She wrapped her warm hands around the cold bars and stood in empathetic silence. That night she went to bed thinking about the gorilla who lived alone, and so she prayed.
She returned the following day. The sun was out. He was out--people pleasing and feeling quite good about himself. The girl observed his behavior, unimpressed. She was curious about his favorite color and food and if he ever longed to live on the other side of those bars. Not about what he could do for her. Big thoughts for a little girl. But she thought them just the same.
Again, she climbed into bed thinking about the gorilla. And again, she prayed.
The next afternoon she returned with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She sat. She watched. She waited. Eventually he appeared. She offered him a sandwich and against all odds that big ole gorilla accepted something good from a little girl who wanted nothing more than his company, which was plenty good for her.
They talked. They made each other laugh. She asked a lot of questions because that's what little ones do. Sometimes he answered. Most of the time he found ways to temporarily quite her inquisitiveness by offering to change a light bulb.
Each day she appeared for him and he for her. They talked. They made each other laugh. One day he invited her into his cave. They watched television and she rested her head on his shoulder. It was then that she sensed it was his heart that lived behind those bars, and marveled that this invisible force field of iron allowed the gorilla to hold her close.
She developed a deep affection for the gorilla. With childlike faith, it didn't occur to her that not everyone desires the freedom to love and be loved. Some prefer to live behind the bars of good deeds.
It was a day like any other day, or so she thought. She'd made sandwiches for her friend, the gorilla, whom she loved. She expected to talk and laugh and rest her head on his shoulder. Only he hesitated to show himself. She waited. She wondered why and tried to ignore the rumblings in her tummy that signaled a storm was underway.
Eventually, he appeared. But the soft blue eyes she'd peered into so many times before had grown cold and dark and indifferent. The little girl extended her hand to him but he refused it. She handed him a sandwich. But he threw it to the ground and growled, "Go away." He retreated to his cave.
Bewildered, the little girl sobbed all the way home. That night she went to bed thinking about the gorilla. And as she prayed, her pillow absorbed the drops of the gorilla's unexpected and very unfriendly goodbye.
She sought to understand. Because this is how God made her.
She prayed for him. Because this is how God made her.
Nowadays, she tucks herself into bed and prays for the courage to accept how He's made her, even if the gorilla will not. And she reaches through the bars of her own heart with the same unconditional love she's given to others.
Why just today, she made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
You are not alone,
Little Wendy Redroad
I reached into the most vulnerable place in my heart to write this story. But first, I had to embrace the not so vulnerable place in my heart that needed to temporarily call the gorilla an ape. And also acknowledge the angry place from which I journaled Mr. Gorilla seemed very attentive and affectionate in the beginning but in reality was only after one thing.
Jesus is not deterred from living in any of these places in my heart. He has a way of sorting it all out and bringing me face to face with great sorrow . . . for a little while. Together, we move through the sarcasm and the anger. And then we grieve. And then I heal. I forgive him and I forgive myself.
Published on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 @ 3:01 PM CDT