Matthew 5:14-16

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." ~Matthew 5:14-16

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Butterfly Experiences

As of lately, I've found myself looking for butterflies as much as I look for rainbows, and when I find them, I get all excited. Do you? I am rather fascinated by the little creatures. Perhaps its that I've had so many cocoon experiences this year, that I just find myself drawn in that way. While window shopping in town, I discovered these little mason jars with butterflies flapping about inside. They were incredibly beautiful. Entranced, I moved up closer, then picked it up off the shelf. I discovered that they were toys on little fish wires that made them to dance about the inside of the jar as though they were real, even moving at the flick of a fingernail against the glass.

I found myself suddenly removed from all the noises around me. I was thinking about a good friend of mine who has been struggling with trials. I thought about the butterfly, remembering watching the Truth Project and how Dell Tacket taught on the struggle within the cocoon. I bought two of those toys, one for her, one for me. My favorite butterfly is a monarch, so I chose those out from the four varieties. I felt rather impish, knowing that I'd be giving my dear friend one of these and yet, keeping it a secret for three days. I didn't just want to give a butterfly toy, but something substantial. Something thick with meaning.

I searched the web late into the night, not resting until I had what I wanted. Unknowingly, I was about to find out something rather amazing as well.  (Isn't that always how it works out?)
Did you know that the most critical stage in the butterfly's life is the caterpillar stage? No one really thinks much about the caterpillar but to say, "Oh yes, those turn into butterflies." But I didn't know there was 5 stages, called instars. It is necessary for the caterpillar to begin eating what is good for its health, and to prepare for it's future life as a butterfly. Everything it eats is necessary to help it in it's life as a butterfly. If it goes malnurished, then the butterfly will not be as healthy as it could have been. If it doesn't eat the right foods, it won't develop the right coloring that will detour it's predators. During it's short life as a caterpillar, it must eat eat eat. While that happens, it begins to form the starts of it's wings, called disks. It is not visible to the naked eye. The structure of the butterfly is forming within the caterpillar. It enters into its cocoon and the struggle begins. It is stripped down to it's bare form and the wings begin to grow and the butterfly begins to take shape. Once it is fully formed, it battles free of it's cocoon and basks its wings in the light of the sun, drying them out and getting the energy that it needs to fly. Fascinating creatures, as I've said.

I began to see something. My life is similar to that transformation story. I, like the caterpillar, began my newly-born life as a Christian, hungry for the morsels of the Word which would nourish me, and provide the energy that I need in my struggles in life. If I do not have quality time in the Word and with God, then I am malnourished and have a very hard battle when I enter my trials and times of tempting. If I had only spent time in the Word, I know I would have been so much stronger to put my trust and hope in the Lord to grow me, instead of leaning on my frail self, only to find that I crumble beneath my own weight as though from heat exhaustion. But, with the nourishment, I am given the strength to go through my trials with the right perspective and I am grown through it.

Off onto a bunny trail from my original thought to help my dear friend, I began to delve through Scripture to find verses to support my thoughts about the caterpillar journey. I found many verses that spoke on the subject of trials that I was amazed. I know, there are several verses on trials and testings and the growth of a Christian, but I hadn't really given it much thought, I guess is what I mean to say.

The verses of Scripture were so much like water to my thirsty soul that I was up past midnight (I forgot to watch the clock and time slipped away...I only know that the tinge of morning was spreading along the horizon). I want to share what I found with you....
This is how I am to respond to my trials:
Romans 12:12 – “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
James 1:2 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Romans 12:1-2 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 
James 1:12 – “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

What suffering does in the Christian's life:
Romans 5:3-5 – “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Transformation: A new creation:
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Transformation: Who I was before and my transformation into a new creation:
Ephesians 2:1-10 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience –among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Transformation: This described me before and after Salvation:
Galatians 5:19-24 – “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Transformation: Who I am now as a new creation:
Romans 8:15-17 – “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Ephesians 1:3-14 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Romans 8:28-30 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

This changed how I viewed my trials:
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”

Is it no wonder why trials are to be viewed, not only with joy, but as joy? Not only do trials transform the Christian more and more into something so much more beautiful - into the image of the Savior, but trials can be useful tools to come along side others and comfort them in their afflictions. Does this amaze you the way it amazes me? Wow. There is so much to digest here that I admit openly: I haven't barely begun to comprehend it totally. All I know and understand is that: No matter what, no matter when, or anything- Read the Word! Be immersed in it, constantly ready, meditating on what is good and true and right! Trials will come. In the Christian's life, those are the tools that God uses to grow His sheep, whom He loves. Strengthen each other, uphold each other. Trials are very good in the life of the Believer.

Now that I say this, I should explain that I know that trials are not simple and are often times very painful and humbling places. What I mean by calling trials "very good" is that they are often times the very thing that returns my focus back where it should be, and when looking through my hardships with the right perspective, I can turn and glorify God. 

Lately I've had to remind myself that my unhealing sore is a beautiful gift in disguise. I must sound as though I am crazy, but I'm not. It has caused me to know what pain on a day to day basis feels like. It gave me a whole new perspective on those who are hurting, who are hindered by pain of some sort in their lives. I understand and relate, to a small fraction of a point, what they are going through. Would I ever know that miniscule understanding if I didn't have that hurtful sore? It has been the thorn that is good for me. Yes, a blessing in disguise in my life. 

I am determined that through it, I will bring God glory. It too can be a big trial at times. I've seen doctors and foot specialists about the dime-sized sore on my foot pad. I've had surgery to have it scraped out, examined to find out what it is, and to destroy it. That attempt failed. I've froze it and scooped it and rubbed it raw and picked...anything to desperately remove it, but the pain is always dagger hot. Last year, I saw a foot doctor and was outfitted with a specially cast pair of inserts for my shoes. I discovered a small measurement of what it feels like to have overwhelming joy even through my pain. Aided by the new tools, I could walk without a limp, walk without fire....I'll never forget when I got home that day they arrived and were fitted to my feet. I was told to take it easy....well, I'd spent six years under the pain of that sore, and when I was able to move without pain, I looked at my front yard and.....I ran. I ran! For the first time in years, I was running without flames knawing at my flesh, so it seemed. It was an indescribable moment in my life where I knew I wasn't healed of my trouble, but yet, in that field, running and leaping about, I was shouting praises to God. 

I do still feel a deal of pain, sometimes it makes me flush when I take a step. The doctors don't know for sure what the sore is. They said it looks like my body made it, as in some patients cases, this has happened before. I have been warned that it cannot be surgically removed or I will loose padding and with it the stability to walk. I cannot carve or burn it off - it doesn't do anything to it (its not a wart). Once a week, I must scrape off a callous that forms over it so it doesn't shoot pain up my leg. (That's when I hide myself away, saw at it, and sob.) 

I know that sore is there for a reason: It's a blessing. It is a way to understanding the pain of others that I may be ready to come alongside them and uplift them in their trial. Understanding is a beautiful gift. I don't want to complain about it, I praise God. I do pray a lot for endurance, some days it is very difficult.  When I take off my shoes, I return to limping. Sometimes I've lost balance and stumbled. Like this evening, I removed my shoes and took a step forward, only to feel a race of heat that toppled me backwards into a wall, so that I slid down against some very rough objects and bench. I sat there for a moment and covered my face with my hands. "Oh God, help me." I said. "This is a gift. This is a gift, don't let me forget." I admit it: I tried to keep my composure, but I still cried. Lesson I've learned: It is okay to break down in tears. (This is one of the best time to pray, I've found.) There in those quiet moments of hurt, I have always found His comfort. And when I most need it. He is ALWAYS there. Always and at all times, forever with me. I pray that I will never forget or take that for granted. He is so awesome.

You know what? I am not upset or afraid to carry this unhealing, painful sore my whole life. If it brings glory to God through its being there, I am very glad to bear it. Being it has been a trial that I have learned much through, I know it has been very good for me. I do not know if you will find my thoughts to be silly, but I could find no better example to show the beautiful treasure I have found. Also to encourage those who may be dealing with their own trials in life to discover the beauty hidden within the struggle.

The butterfly experiences begin with the Believer, a hungry appetite for the Word, and a great and awesome God. Be in the Word. The trials will come, they always do. Cling to the Word and you will find the nourishment you require. The trial will be the cocoon, and at the end of the struggle, you will emerge more of a reflection of the Savior. That is beautiful. 
Until next time, God bless.

(Credit for the butterfly research goes to:)