Have you ever seen an ugly butterfly?

Posted: April 16, 2011 in Short Stories
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Have you ever seen an ugly butterfly?

“I don’t understand why life has to be so hard?”, sighed Rachael.  “It seems around every corner is just another problem to solve, obstacle to get over or situation to stress over! And I’m getting real tired of it. I don’t know how much more I can take!”

Rachael walked with a slow stride next to her best friend Paula.  Rachael’s life had seemed to be one big struggle after another for what seemed like a lifetime, although it had only been less than one year.  This morning was the ultimate ‘cherry on top’ however.  She received a call from her doctor that the blood work from her recent physical indicated some abnormalities and they wanted her to come in right away. In tears, she picked up the phone to call her best friend Paula. “Let’s go down to White Falls Park for a walk.  I think you could use some fresh air”, Paula responded to her obviously upset friend.

It was a late summer morning.  The sun was out warming up the bright Oregon sky.  The weatherman had predicted highs in the 80’s today.   “Should be another gorgeous day!” he said. The storm raging in Rachael’s mind was anything but.

Paula and Rachael walked along the same paved path they had many times before over the course of the last 8 months or so since Rachael’s husband, Aaron, was killed in a tragic car accident.  Most of the time Paula felt helpless to do anything for her friend, except just listen to her.  Many times during her prayer time, Paula would ask God “Why is all this happening to Rachel Lord?  I don’t understand and neither does she.  Lord, please help her.  Help me to know how I can possibly help her.”

And as if her husband’s death wasn’t enough, their home caught fire in late June due to a faulty hot water heater (that her husband had been meaning to fix). Then in July, their teenage son Steven, struggling with the death of his dad, began getting into trouble at school and ended up in juvenile detention.

“And now my blood work comes back all screwed up, just like everything else,” said Rachel shaking her head. “It seems like everything important to me is being taken away – my husband, my son, my home and now my health.  I think the only thing I have left is my sanity and now I’m starting to question that!”

“Can we sit here for a bit?” asked Rachael as they came to a bench along the path.  It seemed obvious to Paula that her friend was tired, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

The sun was just coming overhead as they sat together looking out across the path where a few red and yellow rose bushes were vibrantly displaying their colors.  They sat quietly for a few more minutes, Paula struggling with what to say that she hadn’t already said a ‘million’ times before. Just then a big yellow and blue butterfly caught her attention as it fluttered by; seeming to bounce from flower to flower. ‘How beautiful!” Paula said out loud.

“What?” her despondent friend replied.

“Look at that butterfly over there.  Isn’t it beautiful?!” Paula responded almost excitedly. As Rachel lifted her weary eyes to see what her friend seemed so excited about, Paula continued, “Have you ever seen an ugly butterfly?”

“Why are you asking me that?” Rachel replied almost seeming offended that her friend would ask her such a question in the midst of her pain and suffering.

Then almost like a giddy kid who just figured out the answer to a riddle, Paula turned to her friend, “I don’t think it’s possible to find an ugly butterfly!”  Paula could tell that her friend was lost in her thoughts, her tragedies, her circumstances.

“Rachael,” Paula looked her friend in the eyes, “do you know how butterflies become butterflies?”

Without waiting for Rachael to answer, Paula began to recall some research her own son Shawn had done for an 8th grade class project.  “You know Rach, I have seen my fair share of butterflies and I’ve never ever seen an ‘ugly’ one.  It’s like even though there are many different types, colors and sizes of butterflies, God refused to allow any of them to be anything but beautiful.  I remember reading Shawn’s biology report on the life cycle of butterflies.  It was quite interesting.”

Rachael found herself struggling to concentrate on what her friend was sharing, but determined in her mind to just listen. Paula was obviously excited about something.

“But butterflies are not born beautiful,” Paula continued. “They only become beautiful after enduring an intense life changing battle, literally for their very lives. In the beginning of its life, a butterfly starts out as a caterpillar… pretty much a fuzzy little worm.  Soon, this caterpillar will cover itself with a cocoon and over the process of time, the caterpillar inside will begin to transform into a butterfly.  The problem however is that this new developing butterfly is now trapped inside the cocoon, hanging upside down. Yet, despite all the obstacles the butterfly begins to search for a way out.  Seeing only a small whole formed at one end of the cocoon, it sees this as its only escape route. So, it begins to ‘fight’ its way through that hole to freedom.  The challenge is that the butterfly is too big to fit through the hole.  Its body is swollen with fluids and its new wings small, shriveled and weak.  But determined, the butterfly sees that small hole as it’s way to freedom. But it can’t simply just hang there doing nothing. So it begins; pushing, struggling and fighting it’s way through that hole.”

Paula could tell that Rachael was beginning to show interest in her story and seemed to be listening to every word.

She continued. “Rach, you know what so cool about this?  When the butterfly finally does make it through that small hole and into its new found freedom, it no longer looks like the same butterfly that was in the cocoon, nor the same butterfly that was struggling to escape.  Its body is no longer swollen and its wings are no longer weak and small.  The process of squeezing through that tiny hole actually pushed the stored fluid from its body into its wings where it belonged; forcing the wings to expand and become strong – bringing balance to the butterfly so it can fly!”

Suddenly, as if someone had flipped a switch, Rachael smiled, interrupting Paula, “So what you are saying is that without the struggle, the butterfly wouldn’t find freedom from the cocoon?  It would be stuck in there forever and probably eventually die?”

Paula smiled, “Yes, exactly!!  The struggle is actually a part of the growth process and without it they would never reach their full potential – what God originally designed and created them for – which is to fly!”

“Wow, that is pretty cool!,” Rachael replied – almost for a brief moment forgetting her own struggles.

“Ya! I remember reading in Shawn’s class report that during the process of studying butterflies, one of the students, watching a butterfly fight to get out of the cocoon, felt sorry for it and with a pair of tiny scissors, cut the cocoon open to help the butterfly get out.  The students gathered around the table as they watched this deformed butterfly crawl around the table with a swollen body and shriveled up wings.  It couldn’t fly.  They didn’t know at the time that they were actually hurting it by freeing it themselves.  Kind of crazy, huh?”

“Okay,” Rachael said. “I think I’m getting a small glimpse into myself.  As hard as it is, I’m think I’m going to need to fight through my issues and problems – Aaron’s death, my house fire, Steven’s problems and my health – they are like my personal ‘cocoon’. I remember a few Sunday’s ago, Pastor Ken spoke on ‘persevering through difficult times.’ I think the butterflies are my reminder.”

“Yes, just think, God is creating something very beautiful in you Rachael.  Just like with the butterflies, the growth process isn’t all that appealing and attractive, but what emerges from the struggle is a beautiful butterfly – every time! God never makes an ugly butterfly.”

We are not born strong, but rather our strength is forged out of the furnace of life


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