Lately, I’ve been drawn to the remarkable life of butterflies.
A few years ago, I shared my story on a national podcast. It was terrifying, breaking out of the safe cocoon that hid my ugly past for so long, but it also set me free. Much like, I’m sure, a butterfly feels that first day out of her chrysalis. She has been forming these wings in the dark, unbeknownst to her, and all the sudden expected to use them.
A few weeks prior to sharing on the podcast, I bought a butterfly bracelet. I was drawn to it somehow and felt compelled to purchase. It was only after putting it on my wrist, my son came to me and said, “Mom, we are learning about butterflies in school. Did you know butterflies have four life cycles? They start as an egg, then they are a caterpillar, then they are in this thing called a pupa where they morph, THEN they become a butterfly.”
That simple biology lesson hit me full on.
Butterflies start in darkness, as we do, in an egg.
Then, they slug around as a caterpillar crawling along, not attractive or special by earthly standards.
Once fully grown, the insect enters the darkest period of their lives before becoming what they were meant to be all along:
Glorious, beautiful, winged.
I began to study the butterfly and what I found was fascinating.
Butterflies lay eggs on leaves. Once hatched, the baby caterpillar begins to eat directly from the leaf on which it was born. It has no other option, its too small to travel elsewhere. This fact thrust me back to my own childhood. Too little to escape a hard situation I remained in it, consuming what was near while longing for the day I might escape.
I was stuck, unable to see or move one mere inch. The other leaves seemed so far away and I didn’t have the means to extend beyond my own branch.
As the insect grows, it’s able to travel further and further away from the leaf, testing new environments and eating new leaves. Eventually I moved in with my father, I moved beyond the difficult home of my youth but stepped into almost a harder environment: that of my own mind.
I couldn’t escape the plaguing thoughts, the depression, the despair. It seemed every new leaf left me lonelier. I was growing and consuming and inching forward, but every step felt heavier.
I was longing for something beyond my reach, searching for a peace that appeared elusive.
A caterpillar in this stage only eats, consuming but never fully satisfied.
That is, until she is fully grown.
Once the insect has consumed all it is able, it enters the most miraculous transformation of its entire life: the pupa (or chrysalis) stage, which also happens to be its darkest. On the outside, it appears nothing has changed. The insect is stuck in one place, not moving, not changing- a suffocating blanket slowly engulfing every inch of her body. But inside, the caterpillar is rapidly changing; it’s stubby and earthly body forming beautiful new parts that will allow her to soon soar. I am reminded of the days, months, and even years I felt most alone, enveloped by a darkness that seemed endless. Yet it was God who covered me, allowing the darkness, so that once the light burst forth His miraculous work would be revealed.
And, friends, His glorious work will always reveal itself.
The darkest moments, the most suffocating seasons, God is transforming us.
It is He who is morphing our hearts and souls, fashioning new parts within that will enable us to carry our story to places far beyond what we could imagine. We do nothing in our own strength, it’s His mighty hand that works in and through us.
He paints the story, He give us wings to fly. Our job is simply to trust, allow Him to work, and fly when fully grown.
Studying the butterfly has changed me. I have become more aware of how intricately He is in the details. Everything is a picture of His steady hand. Since sharing so publicly, I have seen glimpses of His encouragement.
I see butterflies everywhere.
Each time I share my story, whether it be with a friend or on a much larger scale, a butterfly oddly appears- whether it be a live beauty flying near as I go for a walk, or one that just happens to appear in a book or on a shirt as someone is passing by. I smile each time knowing God is pleased, it’s a sign of His care for me.
As many of you know, I recently shared the fullest version of my story (thus far, a fuller version is coming…) with Iowa’s largest newspaper. It was a long process of digging, revisiting old wounds, facing shoved-aside pain, and allowing others to take the story in their hands. I had to entrust the story to another and pray she would be kind to it. She was, it was written well.
The day before its release, I was walking on eggshells, not sure how it would all roll out and terrified things may not go as I hoped. I had ordered an early Christmas gift for a friend from a calligraphy site I love and noticed it had come in the mail. When I opened the envelope to examine the gift, another sheet of this paper was enclosed within. I pulled it out. There, in my hand, was a beautiful print of a monarch, the background a full page of written words.
It was as though the butterfly was resting on the pages of a story.
Tears fell from my eyes. I did not order this, it had nothing to do with the gift I had purchased, yet here it was: a full picture of His pleasure.
It was as though He whispered, “Well done, child. Well done.”
The final stage of a butterfly, after it bursts from the chrysalis, is to spread its wings and reproduce. She flies away, spreading her eggs on another leaf and then, her life is over.
I pray this over my own life daily, “Lord let me be faithful to share this story wherever and with whomever You choose. I am not interested in my own glory, but in Yours alone.” I have no desire to be well-known for the sake of being known. I am not one who loves the stage. BUT, I have felt His undeniable peace and pleasure when I share what HE has done.
Not I, but Christ.
Just as a butterfly is weak in her own strength, it is the wind that carries her forward and allows her to plant her seed near and far. He is carrying me, and I will be faithful to go wherever He leads.
“New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” -Barbara Brown Taylor
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; shall run and not be weary; shall walk and not faint. -Isaiah 40:31