When my children were little, we loved to take adventures. The butterfly house at the St. Louis zoo was a regular adventure for us. We’d get the picture cards when we walked in to help us identify all the different species. The kids would get so excited each time they spotted a new one. They would giggle as they stood as still as they possibly could in hopes of a butterfly landing on his arm or head. One day, my sweet and very fast Noah tried to catch one of the butterfly house’s residents between his hands. Well, you can guess how that turned out…smooshed butterfly. It happened so quickly right in front of the eyes of the docent.
She was visibly upset and explained to Noah’s chubby little face that we only had a few short weeks to enjoy the miraculous beauty of each butterfly so we needed to look and not touch.
He was 4 at the time. He really just wanted to chase them and squirm when they “kissed” him upon landing, but her reaction stirred up all kinds of questions that I didn’t have the answers to about butterflies and their lives. After saying, “I don’t know… I’m not sure… that’s a good question 5 million times, I decided to research the life of the butterfly. I ordered a butterfly kit complete with 5 live eggs. We set the net container up in our kitchen and the kids and I cared for them and observed them everyday. The eggs eventually hatched and became caterpillars. The caterpillars eventually wiggled and enclosed themselves in Chrysalis' where the pupa remained until it was time to emerge completely transformed. The whole process took about 30 days. Every day the kids would sit in front of that net watching to see what would happen. And one day shouts of joy and excitement could be heard from miles away I’m sure. There was movement. We all gathered around and watched as the first butterfly wiggled and squirmed and eventually emerged from her hiding space; beautiful and free. Over the course of the day all but one butterfly would wiggle free and spread her wings and fly. The kids were concerned with the one that struggled but couldn’t get out. They wanted to help her, so I grabbed the directions that had come with the kit and looked for how to help.
What I found changed the way I looked at butterflies forever. What I found changed the way I would look at life forever.
The instructions advised us NOT to cut her from her chrysalis. Not because we may have cut or poked the tiny creature with the scissors like one might think. It was so much more profound than that. You see, before a butterfly can float onto the scene as a colorful miracle, it has to do the right things at the right times. Hatch, eat, shed, form, and struggle to emerge. The butterfly just has to do the right thing. Helping the butterfly get loose would have been the easy thing but it would not have been the right thing. The challenging struggle to emerge from the tight chrysalis is what pushes the fluid from the body into the wings and enables the wings to open and spread.
It’s necessary. It’s crucial to the transformation.
The butterfly can’t choose an easier option…the transformation from ordinary caterpillar to magnificent… miraculous… extraordinary butterfly can only happen doing the right thing, even when it’s hard. Doing the easy thing leads to stunted growth in the butterfly…it leads to incomplete transformation…it leads to mediocrity…it leads to missed opportunity. The butterfly struggle is real! Wow! Just wow.
And so the butterfly has become a powerful symbol for me in my life because the struggle is as real for our spiritual growth and us as it is for the butterfly.
It’s necessary. It’s crucial to our transformation.
You see, when things in my life get hard, it’s easy for me to lose focus…to forget that Jesus is in it, that He knew I’d be in it, and that He has something beautiful on the other side. When I have to struggle…when breakthrough takes longer than I anticipated, it’s easy to forget that Jesus came so that I could have and enjoy life and have it in abundance…to the full, till it overflows. Am I the only one who forgets? OR do you too? Well here’s your reminder: Jesus wants you to live an extraordinary life.
But what does that really mean and how do we accomplish it?
Abigail was “an intelligent and beautiful woman” and a helpful example that lived in the time of David. We find her story in 1 Samuel. Abigail saved her husband and the household, prevented David from doing something rash, and stepped into an unexpected future for herself. Her life was very unusual…it was remarkable…it was extraordinary.
Abigail was married to a very wealthy man named Nabal who owned many goats and sheep. Nabal was not a loving human; let’s just say that. David had been kind and taken care of Nabal’s shepherds. When his service wasn’t needed anymore, David sent a request to Nabal for aid, food and shelter, as he and his men tried to stay one step ahead of King Saul. (remember he was after David) David was asking for payment to be made for his services, basically. For no apparent reason, Nabal refuses David’s request for food and shelter. Now, David’s request was not unreasonable, but Nabal for whatever ridiculous reason says, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” David did not take this rejection well. He swore to kill every male associated with Nabal’s household. He grabbed his sword and was on his way with four hundred armed men, when Abigail met him on the road. She offered David payment of wine, grain, prepared meat, and cakes of figs. Then she fell down in front of David, pleading with him to show mercy to her husband. Abigail was attempting to do the right thing even when it was really hard.
David thanked Abigail saying she was a blessing, repented of his own silliness and rash decision to murder Nabal’s household, and sent her home in peace.
Meanwhile, Nabal, insensitive to his actions and the danger that he had been in, held a red carpet event for himself and got drunk. Abigail waited until the next morning for her husband to sober up, and then told him everything—how David had been on his way to destroy him and how she herself had saved Nabal. Upon hearing this news, Nabal fell ill: “His heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died”. David then sent a message to Abigail asking her to become his wife, and Abigail accepted changing her life forever.
Abigail had no idea what was going to happen in her life when she righted her husbands wrong. She just knew that it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t the easy thing, it was the right thing.
You see, Abigail had a heart for doing the right thing. She did the right thing even when it was hard…even when it was a struggle. And this was a big time struggle. The easy thing would have been for her to have ignored it all and let her husband suffer the consequences of his actions along with many other innocent people. The easy thing would have been to stay out of it. But she chose to do the hard thing and in that hard thing God worked something beautiful and extraordinary in her life.
It would have been easy for Abigail to think that God had nothing for her in the struggle and therefore just have chosen the easy way, but she didn’t and she realized God was working out amazing things for her. Sometimes it’s hard or impossible to see all that God is doing in our lives, but He is always on the move.
John Piper says:
“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life and you may be aware of three of them.”
If you’ll just continually do the ordinary things of life even when it’s hard, trusting that God is up to something, you will emerge one day with an extraordinary life of beauty and abundance…just like Abigail…just like a butterfly.
But sometimes it will be even harder and take even longer than you think or want.
The day of butterfly watching ended and still no 5th butterfly. As I tucked my children into bed that night, I promised them we would release the other 4 in the morning and we could burry the one that didn’t make it. But we woke up the next morning to a lovely surprise. There were 5 extraordinary butterflies in our net. It had taken the last one a bit more time…she struggled a little longer…her journey was more difficult, and that’s okay. She kept doing the seemingly ordinary right thing even when it was hard and eventually she was transformed into something extraordinary.
And so can you. I believe in you.
So when you find yourself in a conversation that’s unkind or harmful to another human, do the difficult but right thing and show yourself out of it. When your child messes up and the consequence for that mistake is inconvenient for you, do the hard but right thing and follow through. When you find yourself face to face with someone hungry or in need and you have the means to help, do the right thing and provide. When you could take that shortcut at work but it will cheat the client, don’t. When someone uses a poor choice of words with you, do the right thing and respond in love not retaliation. When your thoughts lean to judgement, do the hard thing and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. When you want to lash out with your words, do the hard thing and bite your tongue.
Do the right thing even when it’s a hard struggle and I promise you those seemingly ordinary choices will result in an extraordinary life!
You can do this. Hang in there. I’m standing with you. It takes longer for some than others. It’s not a race, it’s a beautiful process. And you my friend, are on your way!
I love you and I’m glad you are here.