Last weekend I traveled to Denver to visit some dear friends, who are really more like family. We decided to journey to the Butterfly Pavilion with their (almost) 3-year-old, my joy-filled adopted niece.
As we pushed through the glass door into the tropical oasis, the mist spraying down on us, it was as if we’d stepped through a transporter and were suddenly in South America. Hundreds, if not thousands, of butterflies flitter-floated around us, of all shapes, sizes and colors. After only a few moments, I learned that their flight patterns are truly unpredictable. At times they fly right at you and turn, but they can also come out of nowhere and lightly land on your shoulder. Initially, it felt a little invasive to my personal bubble, but after a few more steps I felt a natural peace come over me. This was a portion of nature, God’s glorious creation, that I had never before experienced.
I paused at the chrysalis station to observe where the butterflies were forming. Beauty being forged, there in those dark, small spaces. They take a couple weeks inside there to be ready, the nice girl in uniform informed me. Then after emerging, they live only about 4-6 weeks. Weeks. Time is so fleeting. So these butterflies spend roughly a third of their short lives in darkness. Being prepared to fly.
I heard once that you are not supposed to help a butterfly come out of its cocoon. It’s the struggle that actually strengthens it so that it can fly. If you assist, it causes the butterfly to be too weak and it will die shortly after.
This gives me hope, that those dark spaces of my life, the struggles I face, are actually being used to form my character and strengthen my soul. That I will emerge stronger and more prepared. Without them I’d still be weak, unable to fly. But the effect of the season of hardships is soaring on high. Just like those butterflies.
Life is short, we’re told. But honestly, at 29 years young, I don’t often think about that.
We had grandpa’s 90th birthday party last month. It was a joyful celebration of lots of family and friends gathered to honor his life. His brother even flew out from South Carolina. The struggles they’ve lived through together caused him to fly, to know the importance of loving those you’re close to. Celebrating with them, prioritizing them, cherishing them.
Then I saw this broken beauty butterfly last weekend. I wanted a photo of a blue one, and this was the only option I got. As I think of my grandpa in his old age, while my adopted niece is nearly 3, it’s that gap between the chrysalis and this photo that comes to mind. I often see life illustrated in nature, and this is a picture to powerful to portray in prose.
It causes me to think what I don’t often ponder–that life is fleeting, fading indeed. I want to embrace the struggles and push through to fly, because it’s a short flight. But while I’m here, I also want to embrace each moment, every season, and express my love to those dear to me. Because even in the broken, brief breath of life, you can find beauty.