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
Inappropriate Bohemian Footnote:
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 and then turned out to be an emotional F-wit.
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.
Published on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 @ 3:01 PM CDT
I was nineteen years old when Christopher was born. Twenty-one when he was hospitalized with acute kidney failure and diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.
Fluids were limited. Diapers weighed. And the fragile fingers of my toddler were routinely pricked to collect the blood necessary to measure kidney function. When not another drop of blood could be squeezed due to the bruising of his chubby fingers, medical staff switched to toes.
IV therapy was particularly challenging. Kidney patients suffer sever edema, so it's no small feat to find a willing vein. I remember well, the day my Christopher's ability to be soothed was surpassed by the overwhelming fact that there did not appear to be an end in sight to the very real pain he endured each day.
After 2-3 failed attempts, a neonatal nurse (read: ninja) who works with preemies, was called upon to access a vein. She entered the room and joined four adults standing at his bedside. With the best of intentions and the purest of motives, we started in with our spiel: It's okay, sweet baby. This woman is here to help you get better.
And that's right about the time Sweet Baby had had enough. Not because no one cared. But rather, because a human being (toddler or no) can only take so much. Because it wasn't okay.
So, he sat straight up in that hospital bed and shouted, "##@**!!!" It was the mother of all swear words. I'm not talking about the F word. Given the nature of this story, I'm inclined to write that one. Nope. My little guy took the Lord's name in vain. (Oh, yes he did.)
It grieves me to report that I was flush with embarrassment. If memory serves, my response went something like: I'm so sorry. We don't use that word in our home. I don't know where he got that. "Christopher . . . Baby, we don't talk like that."
Let's recap. A very big world had inflicted upon the shoulders of a very small child, a series of painful events he could no longer withstand. At least not on this day. So, he had a melt-down.
The mother, who loved this child more than life itself, initially felt embarrassed/self-righteous, rather than empathetic, to a weary soul's diminished capacity to take another "hit."
In contrast, this is how our beloved neonatal ninja responded: Baby boy. I know you're mad! I know this hurts! You say whatever you need to say to get through this.
There it is, people. Grace.
Do you have it for yourself when you say or do something you wouldn't ordinarily say or do when pure exhaustion and pain supersede what you already know the Bible has to say about a Christian's words/deeds being worthy and all?
Do you extend that same grace to friends and family when they're hurting? To the cranky person working the register at a glacial pace when the last place you want to be is in line at the grocery store? Do you ever consider that the last place your cashier might want to be that day is in front of a register, perhaps too heartbroken to force a smile?
Life is messy. And at times, painfully overwhelming. Shouldn't we, as Christians, embrace one another with empathetic arms, rather than use carefully selected Scripture to "minister" to a weary soul who's clearly hanging on by a thin thread?
If you're hurting and there's no end in sight. If the "hits" keep coming and you've had moments when the ability to respond gracefully vanished in thin air, I would say to you:
Baby girl. I know you're mad! I know you're hurt! And there's grace for you when you stumble and fall. I once believed grace was something that dusted me off and stood me up again. But that's only the half of it. Grace, I've discovered, is determined to convince me that with a mouth full of dust-- too weak to stand, I am loved and cherished. This is the revelation that will empower me (and you) to rise up and walk again.
You are not alone,
Published on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 @ 11:16 AM CDT