Aren’t butterflies beautiful? They come in all different colors and sizes. They’re friendly and curious little creatures that fly where the wind takes them. Often, we use them as examples of beauty. They are also used as examples of nervousness and excitement. I feel like I can relate to a butterfly fairly well. In high school, my friends literally called me the social butterfly. I knew at least one girl from nearly every volleyball and basketball team we played against. In fact, one of my best friends was from another school. I was always friendly and happy and floating from one beautiful flower–aka friend–to another, making sure they had all the support they needed to grow. Then, I flew into the proverbial windshield of life.
My junior year of high school was a tumultuous one at best. My whole life, I had been the bubbly fluttering happy girl floating from flower to flower wanting to be friends with everyone. For a long time, it was because I really did just want to be friends with everyone. In 5th grade, it started to be because I wanted to be loved by everyone. In high school, it was because I didn’t feel loved by anyone. I guess I thought if I was surrounded by as many other butterflies migrating around me as possible, then I’d never feel alone. Silly me. The more people I reached out to and tried to befriend, the more alone I felt. Add on that “all” of my friends had boyfriends while I was “forever alone” and I was miserable. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Like there was something wrong with me. Why didn’t anyone love me? Did I have a lopsided broken wing that I couldn’t see or something? I don’t know, but I was alone or at least I felt that way.
I was going to a private Christian school and I grew up going to church every week and spent a few years in Awana. I knew what the Bible said. I was never alone. Even if everyone else did, God would never leave me nor forsake me. I knew that, but I guess I didn’t believe it, and I certainly didn’t feel it. I know the heart–aka emotions–is deceptive, but feelings–at least for me–are more real than anything else in the world. I’m a very sensitive person. I feel everything. I feel my emotions and somehow I feel the emotions of others around me–even fictional others which is weird to say, but it’s true. You’ve heard of second-hand embarrassment? I feel secondhand everything. So, when I do–or don’t–feel something, it sort of consumes me. That or I block out all the feelings with facts and that’s not healthy either. I’m working on finding a balance between sense and sensibility, but it’s a long, hard battle. A battle I realized I had to fight in high school when I was the social butterfly who felt like a bug on a windshield.
I grew up singing the song. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I knew it. In my head, I knew it, but in my heart I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t good enough to be loved by a perfect God and I wasn’t bad enough to be saved by a merciful Saviour. I had been saved. I knew and accepted and believed God’s beloved sacrifice when I was six years old. I remembered the scene almost flawlessly and knew without a doubt I had been saved from the fire of hell. What I wasn’t sure about, what I felt like I shouldn’t/wouldn’t be saved from was the darkness of life. I knew I was flawed and broken. I knew I had done a “good job” of not falling into the pits that many others around me had. I didn’t know that we really are all equal in the sight of the Lord. I never consciously believed I was better than anyone else, just better than what my evil nature could have asked me to do. I practically lived at my church. I was there every Sunday for church and was serving weekly. I was there Monday through Friday for Christian school and memorized every verse–about 20 or so every 2 weeks–they asked me to. I was reading my Bible semi-regularly. I was doing all the things a “good little church girl” should be doing. I wasn’t sleeping around, or even kissing anyone. I wasn’t partying, drinking, or smoking. I never snuck out or went anywhere against my parents’ will. I wasn’t doing anything a “good little church girl” shouldn’t be doing. The things I was struggling with were “minor.” I was self-harming, but it wasn’t visible. It wasn’t “as bad as other girls.” I had sort of attempted the behaviors of eating disorders, but hadn’t gone farther than unhealthy thoughts toward food rather than actions. I was depressed and wondering if anyone would miss me if I wasn’t around, but I wasn’t suicidal. All these church girl checkboxes and “minor” issues made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for God’s love, but wasn’t bad enough that I had any right to say I was struggling. And that’s why I felt like I was so unloved.
I refused to tell anyone about what I was dealing with, so when they didn’t see it on their own I felt unseen, unloved, and like I wasn’t struggling as much as I was. When I prayed, I didn’t pray about the root of the problem. I didn’t address the real issues. I just wanted it all to go away. I literally prayed for God to take away my free will in these things and make me “good enough.” I felt like if I was asking for it, then that should still be considered free will and that God should accept it. He didn’t. Surprise surprise. When He didn’t, I think a part of me resented Him for not taking it away. Some part of me definitely felt unloved. If He loved me, then why wouldn’t He take the pain away? Why wouldn’t He take the feeling of inadequacy away? And if the people I loved loved me then why couldn’t they see I wasn’t the bubbly and happy butterfly I pretended to be? Why couldn’t they see my wings had been clipped and I was no longer flying? Why? Why? Why?
To be honest, I still don’t know the answers to any of those questions. I can guess that for my people, it was because I was hiding and most people aren’t good at seeing through facades. Most people don’t know to look for a mask or how to look past it. Most people believe what you tell them. I told people I was happy. I told people I didn’t have a worry in the world. I told people I was fine. And with God. I don’t think it’s that He wouldn’t take the hurting away. I think He was just waiting for me to be honest with Him. He knows everything, but He doesn’t force anything. He wants true love and honesty. He doesn’t want robotic obedience. He gave us free will for His and our own good. Who wants to be loved because the lover is forced to love them? Not us and certainly not God. Who wants to be forced to love someone? Forced love produces things like Lord Voldemort. Forced honesty produces broken hearts, anger, and bitterness like with Caroline Forbes, Elena Gilbert, Rebekah Mikaelson, and Stefan Salvatore. Who wants that? Not I and now I’m grateful God didn’t force anything. Now, I know God was trying to love me and doing what He could to help me out of the pit.
At the end of the day, God can do anything with or without our willingness, but that’s almost never if ever how He works. He wants us to be willing which is probably why the one thing that finally pushed me to really be willing to come out of the dark was a documentary about one of my favorite singers. I have always and probably always will be a fangirl. In large part because I am so sensitive to every form of feeling, I really get into anything and everything I love and God uses that to help me understand lessons He has for me. So, when I saw my favorite singer was struggling with things I was struggling with and ended up in a rehab center for it–and other things–I was shocked into action. It pushed me to be honest with God. And it was when I was honest with God that I really started to feel how much He loved me.
In the following year, God would use this singer and another band to show me how much He really cared for me. When someone really loves you, they take notice of the things that you love and the things that make you you. God took the things I loved and used them to help me find His Light and Love. As He walked me through the dark and into the Light, He led me to believe I could be honest with my friends and family about things I had been dealing with. As I did, I learned that they did love me, even if I hadn’t felt it. The reactions to my confessions were so full of genuine love I couldn’t believe I had ever doubted their love for me. Then, I started meeting new friends who I knew loved me from the beginning. Friends that are still loving me today. Friends who have helped me find my wings again.
Earlier this year, a friend from church gave me a purple butterfly from her wedding decorations. Around the same time, a coworker gave me a green butterfly charm engraved with “You are a blessing.” With the little green butterfly came a little card reading, “A butterfly is so beautiful, graceful and elegant… symbolizing… Faith and embraces the journey along the way…” – A.S. Waldrop
I hadn’t thought about being a butterfly in years. I had forgotten that I used to be the butterfly. That my coach/teacher in high school had gone around the room saying the things she loved about each of us girls and had almost forgotten me because I was a social butterfly fluttering around the room, loving on each girl after we had previously discussed the things we would change about our lives if we could. I took pride in that description, even if at the time I hadn’t always believed it was true. Now, as I look at these butterflies on a regular basis I’m reminded that I am a butterfly. God allows me to feel so deeply about anything and everything because it gives me a unique ability to love everyone in the way that they need to be loved. It gives me the wind I need beneath my wings to be able to fly from flower to flower and spread beauty wherever I go. Not because I’m something special and unique–though I like to believe I am–but because He is. What is the primary job of a butterfly? To spread pollen from plant to plant to help them grow. In this world, God is the pollen, people are the flowers, and I am the butterfly. Beautiful or not, I’m not the most important part of this story. I’m just a carrier. In this transfer of growth, pollen is the most important thing, because it feeds the butterfly and the flower. The pollen is what allows life and beauty to exist. Then the flowers are the second most important thing. They are the reason butterflies do what they do. Both are beautiful, but beautiful in their own way.
So, yes. I am a butterfly. I am beautiful and strong and I finally have my wings again. I am only one beautiful but small creature in a field of flowers–hundreds or more of differently beautiful creatures. And, like a butterfly, my fluttering wings are either anxious or excited–there’s not much in between.
What are you? What is God showing you in your struggles? Are you a butterfly like me? Are you a flower? An owl? A unicorn? A tree? A book? Everything in this world has significance. Everything matters. Everything can an example of who we are in Christ. While life isn’t about us. It is important to find our identities. To find how God wants to use us and to embrace that. God is using me as a butterfly to spread His beauty to others. How is God using you?