Missing the Blessing As a Gorilla Prays

When visiting Amsterdam a few years ago, I saw a young woman pushing her baby stroller and approach the church where we had gone to worship.  She stopped and chained the stroller to the bike rack bolted into the pavement there.

She peered into the stroller, cooing at the little one inside as she folded back the blankets. She then reached into the stroller for her baby.

But instead of the expected baby, she gently lifted a stuffed gorilla about the size of a one-year-old.

Not only that, she and the gorilla were wearing identical outfits: beige pants and green tee shirts.

I have to admit, I was curious.  Especially as I traipsed into the sanctuary behind her and saw an usher greet the woman and then say “Good morning” to the gorilla, shaking its hand.

He led them to a pew perpendicular to the pews facing the altar.

I’m ashamed to say I asked for a seat in the rear partly because that was comfortable for us but mostly because I wanted to watch the woman.

Ok. I didn’t watch.  I stared.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the mother and her gorilla.  The service began.  Songs were sung and prayers were prayed.

The mother shared her hymnbook with the gorilla.  She folded her gorilla’s hands for prayer.  She listened to the sermon, occasionally turning the gorilla’s head, reminding him to listen.

Meanwhile, I hardly sang, kept my eyes open during the prayers, and half-heartedly listened to the sermon.  I was gaping.

At the end of the service, I spoke the understatement of the year to the usher at the door. “I couldn’t help but notice the woman with the stuffed gorilla.”

After a moment to think of whom I might be speaking, she said, “Oh, yes. That’s Janneke. If it weren’t for her gorilla, she would never leave her home. In fact, she recently asked the elders if her gorilla could be

No condescension. No patronizing. Not even instant recognition of whom I was talking about. Where I
had seen peculiar, this usher had seen person.

On an early Sunday morning, I discovered that when I see irregular behavior, my first instinct is nosy curiosity.  I had just spent an hour watching a woman teach a stuffed gorilla how to pray without even first considering the depth of trauma which would prompt her to give such profound motherly affection to a stuffed animal.

Funny though, this sister and I, both on a journey – different journeys born from different circumstances, had both gone to church that morning seeking the tenderness, compassion, and encouragement which comes
from being in the presence of Jesus.

I was too busy gawking. I missed the blessing.

She got it.

Love, Ruth

Ruth Vander Zee
Journey of Faith

Ruth Vander Zee

Ruth Vander Zee
On our journey, I believe Jesus desires us to be our authentic, child-of-God selves.

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