Gorillas on the Couch

“Every one of us has a gorilla on our couch.” It one of the funny phrases my mom says. I’m guessing her “gorilla” is my dad—or maybe me? Nah, what she actually means is every one of us is dealing with a big issue that dominates our living space—or our brains space–whether acknowledged aloud by us or not.

Ten years ago, I remember visiting long-time friends in Seattle, a city where we last lived 23 years ago. Along with great memories, we returned home with a long list of prayer requests. More than that, my eyes were opened to the possibility that most families I meet are also dealing with an ongoing struggle or issue in their lives. And most of us are doing the best we can at coping and carrying on in the midst of struggle. For many the “gorilla” lives within their own skin or within a child’s–and is named cancer, or depression, or alcoholism, or a dream deferred, or chronic illness, or ADHD, or gender identity, or dyslexia, or dementia, or lost hope, or teenage rebellion, or midlife crisis, or….

Last week we joyfully revisited Seattle after a five-year absence. With most dear friends, we picked up right where we had left off. We laughed and talked 100-miles-an-hour to catch up. These great conversations happened in extraordinary pacific northwest settings such as on a sailboat, a kayak, a golf course, a seaside deck, a fishing boat, an NFL game, a picnic table in the forest, or at a local pub.

Even though we hadn’t spoken often in recent months, we knew the questions to ask one another: about our kids, of course, about job changes, about future plans, and about that “gorilla.” In talking it out, we learned from one another.

In these conversations, at some point it dawned on me that it really isn’t accurate to name each struggle a “gorilla.” Perhaps the “gorilla” on the couch could better be called a surprise “visitor” or a “roommate”—because it brings change along with challenge, diverse thinking, differently-abled possibilities, or necessary progress. A “visitor” who offers a fresh perspective on life, points out new paths, and maybe, just maybe, opens up our minds, hearts, and arms for good.

“Who is your “gorilla” on the couch? Your 500-pound, surprise “visitor”? Your 20-year “roommate”? Might we offer a listening ear? Sit with you in silence? Pray with you? We are this holy struggle together and we’re each doing the best we can. I’m hopeful we do better together.

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