I had a dream the other night about a bear meeting a butterfly in heaven. The picture in my mind was so real it was like I was there with them, enjoying the sunshine on what was surely a perpetually perfect day. Their story keeps speaking to me, and I thought it might encourage you too.
The bear had just arrived in heaven and already made a new friend – a beautiful monarch butterfly. He loved his new playmate and thought she was absolutely gorgeous, floating around on her colorful wings. They made the perfect pair – romping through the fields, always in search of new adventures.
One day the bear looked at the butterfly and said, “You must have lived such a charmed life, flying around all day until you found the perfect flower to land on. When people saw you they smiled, always stopping to admire your beauty. It must have been so wonderful to be you.”
The butterfly looked at the bear, and her heart was filled with compassion. She knew the bear’s life had not always been easy – having to constantly hunt for food, and never really making close friends. Everyone had been afraid of him so he spent most of his time alone, and yet – he’d managed to have a little fun too. The bear had lived a long, adventurous life, something she would never experience.
She flew over and perched on his nose, that way they could be eye to eye, and said, “You see my beauty but you don’t know my pain. Let me tell you how I came to look like this.”
“My first memory is being scrunched up in an egg, hungry and trying to fight my way out.”
She paused a moment in the telling. Thinking on how she felt back then, hungry and all alone, always choked her up.
“Those first few days after escaping from my egg I was starving all the time. Back then I didn’t have wings, so all I could do was crawl on my belly and eat the leaf where my Mom had laid her eggs. I’ve got be honest – it wasn’t fun.”
She didn’t tell the bear how the constant fear of being knocked off her leaf had left her nerves on edge, or how she’d wondered why crawling around eating was her only purpose…at least until she noticed something curious.
“One day I realized that with all that eating I was getting bigger and stronger. I thought to myself, soon I’ll be like the other animals – able to go exploring on my own. But then, just as I was getting my hopes up that things were getting better, they got worse. Much worse.
When I finally stopped feeling hungry all the time I suddenly got this crazy urge to hang upside down and start spinning. Before I knew it, I was trapped inside a cocoon. My whole body ached as my limbs and skin and organs all felt like they were on fire. Everything was changing at once, and I honestly thought I was dying.”
The butterfly hated talking about being in that cocoon. That was her ugly phase, and she rarely told anyone about it.
“Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, I realized I was strong enough to open the cocoon. I was so excited to escape…only now, I was different. I was skinny, and I had wings. It took me a while, but I finally adjusted to my new normal and learned how to fly. For four glorious weeks, I lived the life you imagine, and then I died and came here.”
The bear sat quiet, stunned by her story. He thought her life had been so easy compared to his. But now he had a new perspective on his friend’s beauty, and a profound gratitude for his own journey.
When I woke from the dream all I could think about was the high cost of transformation. (And of course that there are animals in heaven, and they talk. 🙂 )
The caterpillar to butterfly story is one of our favorite metaphors for transformation. When things get hard we love to reference one of our favorite quotes –Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly. ~ Barbara Haines Howett Click To Tweet
Our spirits are bolstered with the assurance of brighter days ahead. We do all we can to rush to the beautiful phase of life where we’re flying high, our full magnificence on display.
But just for a moment let’s stop and have a real conversation about the gut-wrenching pain, loneliness, and confusion the butterfly must feel while they’re in their cocoon. Can you imagine what it must be like to have your whole life destroyed and rebuilt, all while being held in place with no idea what’s next or even if you’ll survive?
I know some of you answered, “Hell yes! I know exactly how that feels. You’ve just described my life right now. I keep trying to explain it, get past it, or push through it but nothing is working!”
Sister, I so feel you, and I understand. My life has been a series of such moments. My college pregnancy, my divorce, even my severe panic attacks from an unplanned career catastrophe all threw me into seasons of transition that led to radical life transformations. There were days when I felt like God’s favorite hobby must be to break me, mold me, and shape me for my next big season. And y’all I gotta tell you – IT WAS HARD. Transformation always takes a toll.Our maturity comes through our metamorphosis. Click To Tweet
The good news is that very often the pain of change powers our progress. When we surrender to the process we grow through, not just go through. That’s why I wanted to share this dream.
So many of you have reached out to me, searching for solutions to a life that feels like it’s falling apart. You’re trying your best to hold it together, but nothing you do seems to make a difference. You trust that you’re meant to be a butterfly, but you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be in the cocoon.
Today I just want you to know that if you’re in the process of transformation – lost, confused, angry or in pain – you are not alone, and this is not the end of your story. There is a purpose to the breaking and the shaping. Those of us that have been there before stand with you, to encourage you and watch over you as your new life unfolds.
Sending you great big hugs and love! We can do this sisters, together.