When I first read that Emily was writing about butterflies, I thought, “Oh, I bet this is about caterpillars waiting to bloom.” Guess what, it’s NOT! You must take a minute and read this very real (and kind of funny) lesson that Emily learned while helping her children with a science experiment.
My kids and I recently did a science experiment in which we watched caterpillars turn into butterflies under different circumstances. It was really fascinating, something I had never seen before. I am anti-bug, but my desire for my kids to not be afraid tends to trump the creepie-crawlies caterpillars and other such things give me.
In my overzealous desire to make sure our butterflies were well fed, I placed a nice little bowl of nectar at the bottom – and then watched as they got stuck in it. I rescued several, and had to repeatedly clean them off as we tried some better nectar delivery methods.
Finally, when it came time to release them we didn’t have a dramatic fly off. Instead, the poor things–still having a bit of residue on them– needed lots of spraying. Some even needed some help separating their wings so they could fly. Except for one, which was born with a crippled wing, I am happy to report all eventually flew off. But it took a tremendous amount of work and deliberate care. It certainly was not the magical moment we had envisioned.
My kids thought it was great. They loved seeing the transformation. I couldn’t help but think about how I had nearly killed these poor creatures with my enticing bowl of sugar water. We had completely different expectations. To them, I was the hero that let the butterflies fly again. In my own mind, I was nearly the butterfly assassin.
My kids do so well (most of the time) focusing on the positive – the fact that the butterflies DID fly again. While I mourned the perfect sendoff, they saw the good result. We got them the help they needed, and they flew off to whatever (hopefully) happy fate awaited them.
So very often my self-labeling prevents me from seeing any good, and means I give up far too soon. In my own body image journey, I find this to be a huge hindrance. So many times I have felt like I have not seen results I wanted in my efforts to improve health and so have stopped doing what I was doing. Or, I have not seen the improvement in my mind and thoughts that I had hoped for, and just gave up.
But the fact is, I still am getting the residue sprayed off me and I am still getting to fly. I still find myself fighting for a Godly view of myself, rooted in His love and a willingness to look longer at Him and less at myself in the process.
I wanted to share a couple of things I felt the Lord was speaking to me through our butterflies:
- All the butterflies willingly created their cocoon, having never seen another caterpillar become a butterfly, or any butterfly at all. They had no model, just as many of us may have no mother or grandmother who has walked in a place of spiritual, mental and physical health when it comes to issues of our size. They trusted the process and submitted to it, and emerged as something I believe their caterpillar-ness could never have imagined.
- Sometimes you need to get sprayed a little. They all hated the process, and could they have flown away certainly would have done so. “…Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a glorious church, without stain or wrinkle or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:25-27) When we feel least worthy, it is time to let the water of the Word remind us again who He has made us to be, and remind us that we are not crawling caterpillars anymore, but we have been fitted with wings to fly for Him.
- Though we may feel sticky, flight is still the plan. I was amazed at how many of the butterflies, after having gotten stuck once and cleaned off, would go right back to the same situation as I tried to clear it out. Did they not remember? Did they not realize the danger they were in? Whatever we find ourselves going back to repeatedly – unhealthy eating patterns, destructive thoughts, or obsession with self – the way out of the sticky involves a change. That change will only happen if we believe there is something for us besides sitting in a cage. Wherever we feel caged, I believe God wants to bring hope – a hope that is so strong we can walk out of the habits that got us sticky in the first place.
Just in case you don’t hear it from anyone else today, God has placed a beauty in you and made you able to do and be things no one else ever will in the same way. As you focus on Him, even in the midst of a sticky, gooey process, I believe He will let you soar with great grace and accomplish the wonderful works He has for you to do.
Emily Cox is a mother of a girl and two boys, a homeschool teacher, and has worked as a high school teacher and professor, children’s pastor and a missionary in Asia. She enjoys meeting people from around the world and helping them encounter the all sufficient love of Jesus for the first or five thousandth time. Read Emily’s other posts here.