Lot’s of things can rattle a girl’s cage. I’ve been rattled so much lately it seems I might need to be taken off the field for one of those concussion protocols that the NFL players go through after a blow to the head. The kind that can leave you dazed and confused and wondering which side of the field your bench is on. The doctors say it takes a long time to recover from all that rattling. I might be sidelined.
Anxiety from the build up of worries and fears can shake me until I feel like a rag doll. When the unexpected hits like a bullet train, I get flattened out. I beg for an out of body experience so I can get some relief. I want to see heaven like all those stories you hear about in books and movies. I’ve been begging for that lately.
Life rattles my cage like a relentless predator looking for a meal. We all call it stress. That everyday word that gets thrown around like a hot potato. I hold it, feel the warmth in my hand but soon it turns into a burn. So I quickly toss it right back at whatever I think is causing the pain. I can even start shaking my own cage in hopes of drowning out the relentless rattling. But no matter how I respond, inside me it is wrecking havoc to my mind, body, and soul.
I heard Dr. Henry Cloud speak at Catalyst, a conference for Pastors. He shared this study about stress.
One of my favorite studies was done years ago with monkeys, measuring the effects of relationships on cortisol levels in the brain. (Cortisol is a hormone associated with high levels of stress.) In this particular experiment, a monkey was put in a cage and exposed to a high level of psychological stress, including loud noises and flashing lights. They pretty much scared him to death.
When the monkey was totally terrified, the scientists took a baseline measure of stress hormone levels in the monkey’s brain as it was exposed to these stressors.
Next, the researchers introduced one change into the experiment: they opened the door and put a buddy, another monkey, into the cage. That was it. They exposed the monkeys to the same loud noises and flashing lights, and then took another measure of stress hormones. The Result? The level of stress hormones in the brain had dropped in half. The lone monkey was only half as good at handling stress as the pair was together.
So my question for you guys… who’s your monkey?!
Who’s my Monkey? After Dr. Cloud shared that study, I wanted to call him Henry and invite him into my cage! I was that lonely primate with climbing levels of cortisol and I needed a monkey. He made the point that no one can handle the challenges of life and ministry alone. But since Henry wasn’t available, I might have to open my rattling cage to some other monkeys.
I know I need people in my life. But honestly, it isn’t easy for me. I’ve had some less than desirable monkeys try to move in with me. In ministry and life, it is a challenge to find healthy boundaries in relationships. There is an underlying temporary nature to relationships particularly in ministry. Distinguishing between the pretenders and true friends hasn’t been easy. I’ve been burned by some real hot potatoes!
Nevertheless, I took took the advice to heart and began to pray for insight. I asked myself if I could try one more time to open the door of my life and heart to those I was called to minister with. I talked and prayed with The Pastor about being vulnerable once more. I knew it was risky business. We both did. With our cages rattling, we sensed God saying, “Just one more time.”
It’s been only a short six months from that step of faith. We obeyed God’s call for us to stay faithful to our commitment and let Him lead and work. In some ways those months have been like years. Struggles, weaknesses, and dreams laid out on the altar of trust. Vulnerability can make the shaking even more painful. And when the realization comes that some of those you invited in, have been out side the cage all along doing the shaking, it is devastating.
Who is my Monkey? I’m asking myself this question once again, but I know the answer. I’m not sidelined and I know whose bench I’m sitting on. I have my man, The Pastor. Once again we are seeking God’s direction and will for our lives. We are together on our knees vulnerable before our Savior. My dear daughters and their families. Nothing compares to the love and support they demonstrate in so many ways. My brother and his family throw out the life-line that I hold on to over any miles. A few friends that give comfort and understanding when the fire blazes.
But, just like those three that stepped into the fire and came out unharmed, it is the very presence of the Three-in-One that wraps the arms of love and protection around me.
The Holy Spirit is doing the triage by drying tears and giving comfort.
Jesus is empathizing with my weakness. He knows my shortcomings.
God is holding my hand. The Right hand of my Father has me in His Grip.
This world is relentless in rattling me with troubles, ministry or not. Thankfully the dizzying blows are only temporary. My God is faithful to do even more than I can ask or imagine. The very presence of the Good Shephard is leading me beside the still waters and restoring my soul.
So, Who’s your Monkey?