Saturday, September 11, 2010

Preparing to Fly

Adversity: The Story of the Butterfly

A man found the cocoon of a butterfly.
One day a small opening appeared. He watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.

So the man decided to help the butterfly, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily.
But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract at any time. Neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly. What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening was God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been.
We would never fly.

I asked for Strength…And God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom…And God gave me Problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity…And God gave me Brain and Brawn to work.
I asked for Courage…And God gave me Danger to overcome.
I asked for Love…And God gave me Troubled people to help.
I asked for Favors…And God gave me Opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted. I received everything I needed.

-Author Unknown

This has been a crazy week for me. A week has officially gone by since I sat in this very place and started my first blog. It feels like years ago. I know people say that, but it really does. I have done more transforming in the last week then I probably have in the last decade of my life. God is teaching me so many things, but more than that He is allowing me to feel and truly understand so many truths I have known most of my life. He’s also changing the way I look at life, how I view myself, the necessity of community, and what I know about Him.

God has taught me so many things this week about myself. He is slowly teaching me to love myself, that I am worthy of love, and so very blessed. I’m starting to appreciate my strengths without them being shadowed by my weaknesses. I made a gift for my friend the other day and while everyone was complementing how great it was, all I could see was the flaws. God’s teaching me that those weaknesses, those flaws, don’t define who I am, because there’s greatness there too. I see the strength I am gaining. I feel how much less self-conscious I am about the way I look and feel less worried about what others think. That’s huge for me. I feel less afraid to try things, even when I know they will hurt because I know I can survive them.

I had a really hard night last night. I went out with some friends (which was the good part) but realized I maybe wasn’t quite ready. My heart isn’t quite as healed as I would like to believe. I had some great conversations with some friends I care so much about, some of whom are going through as tough a time as I am, so I am glad I went. But once I got home I realized I had regressed a bit. I started getting attacked by my old way of thinking (anger, resentment, self loathing) but although my mind hasn’t changed, my heart has. I knew I didn’t want to go back to my old ways, I didn’t want all this struggle to be for nothing. I called my sister (who was thankfully still awake even though it was 3 am) and reached out for help. That’s what God created us for, He gave us each different abilities for this very reason. When I talked to her, I asked for simple things: to be reminded that I’m going to be ok, I’m loved, I’m not alone. I asked for help to remind me of what I truly believe, not with just knowledge, but with faith. I told her I just wish God would lake the pain away, not fix my problem, but just not make it hurt anymore. What she told me afterward I’m sure will continue to shake me for quite some time. She told me: “Maybe you just aren’t ready to be painless yet. Maybe God knows that if He takes the pain away, you will stop growing and He’s not done with you yet.” I keep feeling like one day I will just be ok, I will just be done, but maybe God will be working on me for a long time (hopefully the rest of my life). Suddenly, the pain doesn’t feel so overwhelming because I’m still growing. They don’t call them growing pains for nothing.

Thank God for the people in my life. God is teaching me how important it is to reach out when I need help, but also to remember that there are people who might need me to reach out to them. There have been a few friends on my mind and heart lately that I feel my struggle can help. I am praying so hard for them and any role God might have for me in their lives. My hope and prayer with this blog is that these words God has given me will meet someone else where they are and pull them back from the edge. We need support, we weren’t meant to walk this life alone. Maybe God will send me to fulfill a need in their lives, encourage with words, live as an example, or just be the only “Jesus” they let get close to them.

Now that I feel this need to “reach out” to these people I have to stop and confess a bad habit I have. I often feel the need to carry other’s burdens. Where this might seem a noble act, it’s also one that can come with debilitating consequences for that person. That role is not my responsibility. For example: yes, if someone over spends I could continue to loan them money (I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done occasionally-we all make mistakes and need help) but after months or years of this happening, they will have learned nothing, feel no need to learn to budget because they were never forced to experience the consequences (pain) of their mistake (ridiculous overdraft charges!). Much like I need the continued pain to grow, so does everyone else. It’s important to not let our need to help stifle someone else’s growth opportunity.

The biggest lesson I have learned this week is a change to how I view God Himself and our relationship. I have always viewed God as a loving creator and friend, a parental figure and advisor. But you know, the kind of friend you love and go see when you get a chance, the kind that will be there when you need them, but not the priority of my life. I, of course, knew that wasn’t the way God wants, but did not know how to change that and let’s be honest there’s always something else to do, something else that demands our focus. As foolish people, we often need something drastic to happen for us to change our habits or addictions to our unhealthy lifestyle, the things that keep us from leading a fuller life. The result God is looking for: us to see Him for who He is.

I believe one of the reasons we put God in this little affectionate, yet distant box is because we don’t really understand how He feels about us. That’s understandable. His love for us is incomprehensible, it’s not something we can actually experience. But He gives us the closest example with the concept of parenting. Sadly this isn’t always a positive example for all people. However, you may have kids or want to have kids one day and can possibly imagine how you will feel the day you see your kid hurting. Imagine they have surgery for something debilitating and terminal. It will be painful, scary, and extensive, but the end result will be a healthy and whole child with a chance to live. Your kid is desperate for you to help them, you would give anything to bear their pain and give in to what they want. But you know more than their young minds do, you know that this procedure will be the only way for them to truly experience life to the fullest or truly have a life at all. You know the benefits will be well worth the pain and recovery your child endures (and you consequently endure). This is the way God loves us. He sees us living debilitating and terminal lives. He hears us cry out to Him in pain and, like a loving father, He longs to give us what we want, He weeps when we weep. He allows Himself (seriously the Creator of the UNIVERSE!) to feel pain along with us. Because he knows more than our young minds do. He knows the result brings freedom, full lives, and is well worth the pain. Wow! How do you hear that and not learn to appreciate being right where you are: broken, bruised, and loved from your head to your toes.

The story above was sent to me years ago, back in the time of chain emails. It hangs in my house. I just suddenly remembered it and wanted to share. There is undoubtedly a purpose to our struggles. Don’t give up, God isn’t going to waste His time giving us what we want, He’s going to hand craft us everything we need. He’s going to enable us to fly. Fly with me, friends…that’s what we were made for!

What is God teaching you about yourself, others, and/or Himself right now? Would you listen if you weren’t struggling, if it wasn’t hard?
How does it make you feel to know God loves you so much he suffers when you suffer? Does it change your view of suffering?

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