14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
New International Version (NIV)
What does dead monkey babies have to do with forgiveness? Well, it's a story my sister Claudia once told me. She went to a conference where a priest was preaching on forgiveness. He told the story of of a monkey whose baby had died. The monkey refused to be comforted, or to let go of the dead baby. She fought the other monkeys that tried to get the dead monkey baby out of her arms. The stench got really bad, but the monkey still wouldn't let the dead monkey baby go. Flies began to gather around the monkey with the dead monkey baby. Yet she diligently held on to the dead monkey baby, cleaning maggots off of it, and trying to feed it.
Before long the rest of the monkey didn't want her to come near them because of the grossness of the decomposition of the dead monkey baby. Even though she was hurt and lonely she held on to the dead monkey baby. The priest went on to say that's what unforgiveness is like; holding on to a dead monkey baby.
The day after the door incident, I was more than a little angry at the woman who accuse me of not honoring Jesus in this season. I was also angry at Ms. Nosy, mainly because she desires my friendship, but more then that she desires to control me. I see the way she controls a couple of other women on the council. She also ostracize another member of the council that she can't control. She tried to create a situation that would show me that she could do the same thing to me(oust me from a candle lighting ceremony that the council members were suppose perform). I got called to do it anyway by the building manager. She wants me to conform to her opinions and ways. It backfired in her face before I know what she was up to. She reminds me of a schoolyard bully, when what she attempted to cause me hurt backfired, she came up to me and gave me a hug after the program and whispered, "Thanks for being my friend," she might as well said, thanks for nothing! We both know I have no desire to be her friend.
The day after the Christmas party the members of the council met to pass out fruit baskets to the residence in the building. I could almost feel the chill coming from her. In my pockets were these two stuffed monkeys. I know I had two dead monkey babies that I was carrying. My friend Susan was also carrying her own unforgiveness. I told her the story of the dead monkey baby. She refused to carry the stuff monkey. My sister and I have used stuffed monkeys as a teaching tool in bible study for years. If someone says something that's bitter, angry or full of hate; we hand them a stuffed monkey and tell the story of the dead monkey baby. It may seem childish but it helps when you are conscious of the fact that you're holding on to a debt that a person can't pay back. Forgiveness is a requirement and not a choice. I carried my monkeys around, not to hold on to them, but as a prayer for grace to let them go.
By the time we finished passing out the fruit baskets I knew it was time to let my monkey babies go. It was easy for the girl who accused me of not thinking about Jesus. She don't know me, and she's just forming an opinion without facts to back it up. I didn't expect people to understand my reasoning behind my decor. Susan called me to her apartment and let me know that my carrying the monkey babies helped her to forgive the one that hurt her. Abba can use anything as long as you do it with a sincere heart. To be honest I still harbored resentment toward Ms. Nosy mostly because she kept up her childish behavior. The next day after the program in typical Ms. Nosy style she knocked on my door, this time she had a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift. She asked me to open it because it was perishable. I opened it and it was a box of sausage, ham, and cheese from Swiss Colony. Attached to the box was a card once again thanking me for being her friend(or for nothing). I appreciated it, but I have come to realize that everything she does is calculated, and cunning. I wondered what her gift would cost me. I thanked her and told her I would would get back to her before Christmas.
I didn't have much money and hadn't thought to get her a gift. Susan gave me her whole collection of jewelry making supplies since she can no longer make jewelry with her eyes sight fading and arthritis in her finger. I have made beautiful jewelry for my family here and a few friends. I sat down to create something lovely for Ms. Nosy and couldn't do it. Every bead seemed too flawlessly beautiful to give to her. I grab one of the stuffed monkey babies, and prayed, "Lord please help me forgive her, and love her. I need your help on this one."
The Lord knows how to show up in the most unlikely of time and circumstances. I had promised Susan and her sister that I would go to a craft making program they were hosting at their Church. I didn't want to feel obligated to buying Ms. Nosy a gift, but I knew that it I needed to get her something. I wanted to combat whatever her next move may be. I knew it wasn't from the goodness of her heart that I got the gift. When we got to the church there was one woman there that was setting up the food and door prizes. Susan walked up to a beautiful blue and gold gift basket. It had expensive chocolates, cookies, gourmet caramel corn(my favorite treat), coffee and other gift items. There were six or seven door drawing prizes with a thirty or forty people expected to turn out, the basket was the most desired. Several of the women present including Susan expressed desire for it. I thought it would make a nice gift for Ms. Nosy. Just as nice as the one she gave me. I said a silent prayer, "Lord if you want me to give her that basket then make sure I get it.
I got the basket.
Okay, there sometimes a fine line between doing the right thing and wanting to do it. I wanted to keep the basket. It was gorgeous and filled with mouth watering delights. I didn't want to give her beads and I was given plenty. That's the problem with dead monkey babies, after awhile the smell sticks to you. It was something really ugly festering in my heart. At first I tried to find a loophole. I prayed the prayer in my head, maybe it didn't count(I pray in my head regularly). Or maybe I can take a few of the goodies. It just got worse and worse. It's times like these that I have to fight my flesh to wrestle away from it's ugly grip. I had to let go of the dead monkey baby and give her the gift.
I gave her the gift the next morning. She was reluctant to take it, at first. She asked if it set me back. I told her, "No it didn't set me back at all, but if she didn't take it, it would set me back." That was the truth, not financially but spiritually. I sit with her and talked for awhile. I told her I was starting a bible study in the building in the first of the year, and I wanted her permission as the president of the resident council. I had already asked the pastor of the church next door that run the building. I don't know why Abba wanted her to have the basket. I do know he used it to break through the rough places of my heart. I actually enjoyed sitting and talking with her. I realized that when you go beyond someone fault you start seeing their needs. She's just lonely, and being president makes her feel worthy and accepted. She need to feel needed. Her children doesn't visit often and she feels abandoned. I hope she joins the bible study. She did seem genuinely excited about it.
I'm glad Abba gave me the grace to forgive. What better way to let go of past hurts then to give something beautiful and mean it from your heart. Isn't that was Abba did when he sent Jesus to die in our place? He forgave us and gave us gifts.