When the Struggle is Good

So today marks a week of returning to blogging after a multi-month hiatus. Mostly the return has been wonderful, but sometimes I wonder if my long quiet voice has come back too raw. I’ve gotten a little feedback from people worried about me struggling.

So let me just say upfront, I am actually in a pretty good place these days. My writing has been dramatic, and to be honest I am overly dramatic in real life some of the time. But I am okay.

I watched The Birdcage recently and realized that I am eerily similar to Nathan Lane’s character in that movie. I am a sweet, loving, happy momma prone to occasional fits of hysterics related to my  insecurities or the need to perform. As long as I’ve got my hot Latin houseboy to give me my “pirin” tablets I’ll be just fine. Just kidding. And if you’ve never seen The Birdcage, pull it up on Netflix soon. You’ll thank me.

But in all seriousness, I think it is okay to struggle sometimes. We need to struggle sometimes. And if you are going to spend time wrestling spiritually, Lent is the time to do it.

And as much as I believe in community and spiritual companionship, there are some wrestling matches we have to face alone.

I think about the times we have watched butterflies come out of their chrysalis. We are fortunate to live near a butterfly house where you can watch butterflies “hatch” on an almost constant basis.

It is not an easy process. First of all you have the whole caterpillar changing into a butterfly transformation which is crazy mindblowing. But even once the butterfly is fully formed it has to wrestle its way out of its bindings. When we are at the butterfly house we watch them wiggle and push and slowly work those wings our of the chrysalis that has held them for so many days.

We even hatched butterflies at home once a long time back. My parents’ church gave out caterpillars during Lent. For some reason my parents passed the butterflies over to us during the chrysalis stage thinking our kids would like to watch them hatch. What they didn’t tell us was that the church asked for the chrysalises back by the Sunday before Easter so the butterflies could hatch in the safety of a big, soft butterfly net like container.

So there we were somewhere around Good Friday giving birth to butterflies, which we had not witnessed or done before (should have gone to butterfly house sooner). As I watched the butterflies struggling to get out so hard I began to freak out a little (remember, Nathan Lane in The Birdcage here). I just cut open the chrysalises a little so the butterflies could get out.

Bad Move.

It turns out the butterflies really need that time of struggle.

It makes their wings stronger. It does something to the butterfly that if they do not experience it, their wings won’t work at all. Our butterflies came out of the chrysalis, but proceeded to lay in the bottom of the jar we had them in until they died.

Let me just tell you that burying dead butterflies on Easter Sunday is much sadder than watching them struggle long and hard to come out of their bindings.

So if you or someone you love is struggling this Lent, just keep hanging in there.

Having been on both sides of the equation, I don’t know if it was harder having to push my own way out of the chrysalis or watching dear ones I loved struggling to find their way out and not being able to fix it for them. 

Actually, I do know, it is harder having to watch someone you love have a hard time.

For no matter how much you just want to make all the spiritual wrestling end and have them enjoy their glorious life as a beautiful butterfly, we cannot make that transition for them. When it comes to the spiritual life, we each have to push our own way out most of the time.

But by all means stick with the struggler. Cheer them. Love them. Encourage them. Tell them they can do it and they are almost there. That you already see their beautiful, delicate, still wet wings emerging.

And if you are the one in the chrysalis, take heart. It will not last forever. And there are more butterflies than you can imagine just outside your sight loving and praying you through your new birth.

For we are not just talking about small changes here. We are talking about becoming a whole new creation in Christ. And that change is one so amazing and beautiful it is worth all the wrestling that came before.

Hang in there fellow butterflies. Keep pushing and stretching and spreading until you break free of the last binding that holds you in. And when we all break free, we’ll wave at each other with beautiful wings until we take flight together.