Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Framed Butterfly--Missing the Chance to Soar

  Have you ever seen a framed butterfly?  You can buy them in specialty stores.  They are beautiful.  Bright colors.  Fancy frames. 


Photos take from ebay, where these butterflies are actually for sale.
The butterfly in the frame looks safe.  Secure.  Protected forever from wind, from disease, from decay. 
But the butterfly is dead.  Her wings are forever pinned to a board.

Real Framed Museum Rare Autumn Hued Tiger Striped Butterfly 680
Once she flew free and beautiful and radiant.  In doing so, each day she risked damage, hurt, and abuse from the world all around her. 
But she lived.  She flew.  And sometimes she caught a gust of wind, and she soared.
I want to soar, but I find myself thinking backwards about what soaring means.  I tend to think it means being active, busy, involved in some great way that makes me feel significant.  Yet however much those things fill me with temporary good feelings, in the end I find them actually becoming things that hold me down, keep me from true soaring—the freedom and flight that is true peace.
Most of the time I cannot soar—cannot live truly at peace—because I am afraid.  I fear what others think of me.  I fear them looking at my life and assuming I am lazy because I am not involved in every possible activity at church, or I fear they will think I am incompetent if I say no to certain activities that might be expected of me.  Perversely, one of the reasons I do not fly is actually myself—my own expectations of what a good woman of God should be, should look like, should do.  I end up weighing myself down with anxiety and stress—things too heavy to carry into the clouds on my thin, weak wings.
I’m afraid to let go of the things that on the surface give me a sense of significance.  I’m afraid to give up my clinging hold to what feels stable and secure.  So I remain somewhere in between the butterfly that is free and the butterfly forever pinned down.  I am not free, but the things that keep me on the ground are pins of my own choosing.  Pins I myself placed to keep my wings from catching the unpredictable, uncertain winds of change and risk.
And yet, sometimes I look up and long for the wonder that could be mine if I would only take the chance.

I am not the only one.  I see women all around me who are afraid.  We see the fragility within our nurturing nature.  We see the wind in the harsh world around us and fear the vulnerability in our small, thin wings.  We want to protect ourselves.  So we hide inside our schedules.  We stay safe under a blanket of stress-producing expectations.
But to do so is to die to what God created us to be. 
God created us to be beautiful, radiant, at peace.  Not needing to prove anything.
Have you ever seen anything truly beautiful that did not fill your heart with rest?  The very nature of beauty is what sets our souls at peace. 
A gentle stream flowing over your bare feet.  A bouquet of flowers, just because.  The serenity on the face of a sleeping child.
You. 
Yes, you.   
God’s intention for you is beauty.  He created you as a woman.  He gave you the deep down desire to be feminine, to be beautiful, to put others’ souls at rest by your peace.
Femininity has become a bad word in our present culture.  It has become synonymous with weakness—with any woman who refuses to achieve her full potential and is therefore lesser than those who “do it all”.

"We are so cool because we look gorgeous while working our tails off."
I feel that.  I feel it every time I check “housewife” on one of those information sheets at the doctor’s office, imagining the reactions from all those who feel I am less of a person because I am “just” a wife and mother, and do not have a career added to that.  I feel it because I have chronic health problems, and have to say no sometimes to keep my family my first ministry.  I even feel it from the church sometimes, where it feels like even my spirituality is determined by how active I am—in ways that show, of course.
I propose the idea that it is not how busy we are that determines our closeness with our Savior.  Rather, it is whether or not we can rest in Him, not having to prove ourselves to feel worthy of His love.
Doing too much is just as wrong as doing too little.  I am learning, albeit slowly, that if I am not at peace, no matter how busy I am “for the Lord,” I am not right with Him.  Effort in and of itself is not soaring.  In fact, effort can be the very thing keeping us on the ground.

What if I get to the end of my life and face God, proud of the handful of achievements and activities I have brought from my life, only to hear Him say that what He wanted was for me to be content with the job, however small, He had asked of me and to show and share that contentment with others?  A butterfly so intently busy securing myself to the ground, I never fulfilled by purpose in showing others how to fly.
If you think about it, butterflies do not do much on the grand scale of life on earth.  They don’t help the ozone layer, or perpetuate the ecosystem in a big way.  They do their part, each of them, but they don’t strive to do any more than their part.  They are what God created them to be, and that is enough.
But a purpose for the butterfly that is often overlooked is beauty.  The butterfly is beautiful, something that brings joy to its Maker, and joy to any who see it.  If people stop and watch a butterfly, their hearts respond to its fragile beauty and its serenity.  

 
Like a butterfly, you have so much to offer the world—not in a multitude of impressive achievements, in just being you.  In soaring unafraid, which is a song of praise to your Maker.  In being beautiful, a gentle and quiet spirit that is so precious to God, and so peace-giving to others around you. 
Wouldn’t you want to be around someone like that?  A woman who wasn’t competing with her looks or her talent or her accomplishments? 
Wouldn’t you enjoy the soul-filling refreshment of being around a woman truly at peace?
God enjoys it too.  And He wants you to be that woman.
Stop hiding, dear butterfly.  Stop trying to be so strong.  In your quest for freedom you find yourself enchained.
Let go of everyone else’s expectations for you, and even your own expectations for yourself.  Find who God wants you to be.  Let that be your goal, alone, no matter the risk.
Then soar, butterfly.  Soar.

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