Apes and Butterflies


Once there was a powerful corporate executive who lost his job. He was devastated. His whole life was wrapped up in his job. It not only provided for his family, it gave him his identity. The news came suddenly and he was ushered out into the street with just his briefcase.

Broken-hearted, the man couldn’t go home and face his family so, instead, he took a long walk in the park and sat down on a bench beside the fountain. As fate would have it, another man sat down on the other side of the bench who looked even more down than he did. Eventually they struck up a conversation and the new-comer told the executive, “I own a circus. My star attraction was a fierce gorilla – he wasn’t really mean but he could put on a show! People came from everywhere just to watch this gorilla charge around his cage but he died yesterday and without him, I’m afraid I’m finished.” He hung his head.

The executive, used to solving complex business problems, perked up and concluded: “Look! I might just have a solution. I’ve lost my job and you’ve lost your gorilla. Why don’t we skin out the gorilla and I can be your new star attraction dressed up as your ape?”

It was a great idea and the executive – used to ranting and raving and carrying on in the corporate world – made a splendid new gorilla. He was even better than the original and soon the crowds were even larger than before. Unfortunately, one day as the gorilla executive was putting on his fearsome show, beating his chest and howling at the crowd, someone put a fierce lion in with him. Horrified, the executive began to shout, “Help!” to which the lion replied, “Be quiet you fool! Do you think you’re the only person without a job?”

When someone comes to my home congregation, Canyon View in San Diego, for the first time, they look around and wonder, “Will I fit in? Is there anyone just like me?” Unfortunately if we are wearing our disguises, the new person will be disappointed. They might look around and only see all the perfect people and be tempted to walk away.

The problem has two sides: the visitor who can only see who we are now and not who we were “B.C.” – before Christ came into our lives; and ourselves. We’re not proud of what we were before we became Christians and we are tempted to cover up our past, put it in the closet and forget about it. Unfortunately, if we forget, we lose our basis for worship – the attitude of gratitude – and we might even be tempted to become judgmental.

I’m not suggesting we do as those who seem to glory in their past and parade their sins. That smacks of false humility. Rather we need to shift the focus from sin to the Savior. If there is a place for pride, it is not in the sinful past but in the transforming present. Remember: you don’t make butterflies by pinning paper wings on worms. The change comes from the inside!

It’s time to take off the gorilla suits.

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