Are You Holding on to Something?

by | Jun 1, 1999 | Pride

(This story is taken from a fantastic biography about Brother Andrew, called The Narrow Road)

They were wonderful weeks that followed, weeks of reading the Bible together, on opposite sides of the earth. I filled page after page with questions, and Thile went to her pastor and her library and the depths of her own heart to find the answers.

But as the months passed in the hospital, as my cast came off bit by bit, and I saw the ugly shrunken leg and remembered the joys of running that would never be mine again, I found myself holding on to a hard core of resentment, which was just the opposite of the joy Thile and my Franciscan nuns were talking about.

As soon as I was ambulatory, I started leaving the hospital every evening after dinner to hobble painfully to the nearest pub and drink myself into oblivion. The nuns never spoke about it. At least not directly. But on the day before I was to be shipped home my favorite nun, Sister Patrice, pulled a chair up to my bed.

“Andy, I have a story to tell you. Do you know how natives catch monkeys out in the forest?”

My face lit up at the thought of a monkey story. “No. Tell me.” “Well, you see, the natives know that a monkey will never let go of something he wants even if it means losing his freedom. So here’s what they do. They take a coconut and make a hole in one end just big enough for a monkey’s paw to slip through. Then they drop a pebble into the hole and wait in the bushes with a net.

“Sooner or later a curious old fellow will come along. He’ll pick up that coconut shell and rattle it. He’ll peer inside. And then at last he’ll slip his paw into the hole and feel around until he gets hold of that pebble. But when he tries to bring it out, he finds that he cannot get the paw through the hole without letting go. And, Andy, that monkey will never let go of what he thinks is a prize. It’s the easiest thing in the world to catch a fellow who acts like that.”

Sister Patrice got up and put the chair back by the table. She paused for a moment and looked me straight in the eye.

“Are you holding on to something, Andrew? Something that’s keeping you from your freedom?”

And then she was gone.

I knew perfectly well what she meant. I also knew her sermon wasn’t for me. The next day was going to be a great one on two counts: it was my twenty-first birthday, and it was the day the hospital ship sailed for home. To celebrate, I called together all survivors who could still walk or limp of the company I had come to Indonesia with three years earlier. There were eight of us. We had a grand time. We got roaring, shouting, belligerently drunk…

A fragile little event occurred that changed my life far more radically than the bullet that had torn through bone and muscle a year before. It was a stormy night in the dead of winter, 1950. I was in bed. The sleet blew across the polders as it can only blow in Holland in mid-January. I pulled the covers higher under my chin, knowing that outside the sleet was driving almost parallel to the ground. There were many voices in that wind. I heard Sister Patrice. “The monkey will never let go. . . .” I heard the singing under the big tent. “Let my people go. . . .”

What was it I was hanging on to? What was it that was hang­ing on to me? What was standing between me and freedom? The rest of the house was asleep. I lay on my back with my hands under my head staring at the darkened ceiling and all at once, very quietly I let go of my ego. With a new note in the wind yelling at me not to be a fool, I turned myself over to God ­ lock, stock, and adventure. There wasn’t much faith in my prayer. I just said, “Lord, if You will show me the way I will follow You. Amen.”

It was as simple as that.

Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 56,57 and 69.


Are You Holding on to Something?