“Do you remember that monkey at the team retreat?” Jake asked. “Do you remember he was trying to get inside the room where we were playing bingo with the team? That’s what I’m afraid of. That monkey.”
Jake doesn’t like Vervet monkeys.
Caleb doesn’t either for that matter.
Both boys’ anxiety levels shoot through the roof if they believe a Vervet monkey is attempting to enter their space.
Our family has experienced our fair share of tenacious and bothersome monkey encounters over the years. Sure, these Vervet monkeys appear cute, adorable and harmless. However, what we have discovered is that a wild monkey which has been fed by people or who has found a way to forage food left out by careless holiday-goers is a nuisance. Unfortunately, many Vervet monkeys have learned that people are a food source. Thus, their food foraging focus turns to man as opposed to their habitat and environment. These bold, little, fruit-eating tree dwellers will trespass through open doors and windows to snatch any sort of fruit or other foodstuff.
Jake doesn’t like that.
When I posed the question to Jake and Caleb about what they were afraid of Jake and Caleb both agreed that Vervet monkeys ranked high on their fear list.
“And alarms,” Jake continued. “I’m afraid when the house alarm goes off.”
“Why are you afraid, Jake?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” Jake replied.
“You’re afraid because you don’t want anyone coming into our house to steal,” Caleb answered for his older brother.
“You’re right, Caleb,” Jake concurred.
It’s been almost a year since our family experienced our most recent early morning burglary. The boys’ school computers were taken along with other technology devices. The thieves broke in through our homeschool classroom and then proceeded to raid the lounge/living room before their activities finally triggered an alarm sensor. Our family was asleep in our beds at the time of the theft. Jake remembers that experience with dread. He often doesn’t want to leave the house because he wants to stay home to protect it.
“Caleb,” I asked. “What are you afraid of?”
“I don’t like being wrong and making mistakes on quizzes. I get worried about that,” Caleb replied.
It’s true. Caleb experiences a level of test anxiety – especially on science tests and quizzes – and can freeze up if he feels like he isn’t doing his best or doesn’t remember an answer.
I have fears, too. Especially regarding our two youngest kids – what does the future hold for these precious boys? Can we stay in South Africa after they graduate from high school? Will there be a place for them here? There are far less opportunities for young autistic adults in South Africa than in the United States. And yet, our family loves living here. We’re thriving. What will happen?
With each of these worries and fears – troublesome monkeys that may try to enter our space, house alarms that may indicate an intruder is near, quizzes and tests that may be difficult, and a future that is unknown, we have a choice in how to address them. We have troublesome memories. We remember when monkeys tried to get in our house. We remember when thieves broke our windows and broke into our house to steal. We remember difficult quizzes and tests. And we remember the denials and rejections we’ve faced in South Africa in finding opportunities for our autistic sons. These memories can cause us to project our fears into the future and expect that hard, scary, anxious things will result – again.
After all, if it’s happened once, twice, three times, or even many times, why shouldn’t we expect more of the same?
But is that how our Lord and Savior wants us to live?
If we put all of our energy into striving to keep our lives monkey-free, if we keep refusing to leave our home because we’re afraid of another burglary event, if we won’t answer a question because we’re afraid of being wrong on a test, or if we become paralyzed and afraid of the future because of the hard and difficult things that have happened in the past, are we trusting our God?
I asked Caleb and Jake, “Should we just stay home? Forever? That way we won’t have troubles with Vervet monkeys. We can stay here and protect the house. We can put more time in studying for our quizzes and tests. Of course, that means, no team retreat. No trips to Matopos. No movie times. No long trips to the United States to see Nana, Grandpa, Grandma and the rest of our family.”
“What?!” Jake exclaimed.
“I don’t like that idea,” Caleb protested.
“Me, either,” I agreed.
“So, do you know what we can do?” I asked.
“What?” Caleb and Jake chorused.
“Live. We can live our lives. There are things we cannot change. Like Vervet monkeys trying to steal food. And people feeding them when they are not supposed to. But what we can do is accept that these monkeys live in the Lindani Bush where we like to visit. Your dad won’t let any monkey near us. We can trust him to scare the monkeys away. He will do that. And then our family can focus on living our lives and having fun in the bush,” I explained.
There is a fantastic go-to verse on fear that I share with the all our kids – a lot.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
New International Version, Philippians 4: 6-7
What I love about this verse is that we don’t need to struggle with fear. The unknown things of life are not unknown to our God. Our Lord and Savior is Someone who has the power, strength, and wisdom to overcome every fear. In addition, His peace overwhelms any fear we contend with as He guards our hearts and minds in Himself.
Are we able to be unafraid in all things?
I don’t think so. Fear can be a protective agent against poor choices and poor relationships. Fear heightens our sensitivities and causes us to be aware of our environment and the possible dangers that lurk within – like in our case, wild, predatory animals in the bush. Believe me, we have no desire to encounter a pride of prowling lionesses in the dark.
In addition, the fear of the Lord is a wise and prudent behavior to embrace. It is life-giving.
The fear of the LORD leads to life,
So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
New International Version, Proverbs 19: 13
Yes, that’s what our family wants. We want to live life and live life well. We don’t want to be shackled to fears from the past or even to fears of the future that cause us to lose sleep and even lose hope.
This is what Jake, Caleb and I talked about today as we considered our fears.
What are you afraid of?
Do you have any monkeys in your life?