I recently chased a butterfly with my camera, while wearing flip-flops and bathing suit. I felt silly but didn’t care. He was elusive for a while. And then he wasn’t. It was a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. (Thanks, Google)
Later I thought about the whole episode. Mulled. Pondered. God often reveals, when something leads me to think/mull/ponder.
This is what He taught me through this little butterfly:
1) Every picture has a backstory. That day we took our little red boat out onto the lake. The plan was to go further than we ever had and check out islands on the way.
See the cute red boat, the beautiful scene, the tranquillity? What you don’t see is my husband standing in the water holding the boat in place, because there were lots of rocks near the shore that could create holes in the boat. The anchor would not hold. He stood in the water and held the boat for a long minutes so the kids could swim and I could explore and take pictures of butterflies and whatnot. He’s a good man.
After the picture was taken, what you don’t see is how we climbed back into the boat , and the boat wouldn’t start. Also, it had taken on an alarming amount of water in the bilge. The next minutes were tense. I started being grateful we were near the island, and I was seriously calculating how long two adults and three children could live on some bread, a protein bar, and trail mix. And it was extra-tense considering we had just spent a ridiculous amount of money to have the boat serviced. These words may have been
gritted out uttered: ”As soon as we get back, I’m getting rid of this boat”, and “It’s true, the best days of your life are when you get the boat and when you sell the boat!”.
Good news, the water pumped out and all was well.
So that pretty picture doesn’t reveal the moments of fun, laughter, patience, love, and then tension, fear, annoyance, and relief. You only see the snapshot, and it doesn’t represent the whole day.
When we talk to people, we often settle for a snapshot, don’t we? “Hey, how are you? Good, how are you? Fine! so good to see you. Bye!” Staying on the surface is easy and comfortable.
There is always more going on with a person than what you see. I try to be careful to pay attention, to really look someone in the eyes, and see more. Don’t you sometimes want others to really see you? Don’t you want them to care and listen to you?
I believe that if you ask a little more than “How are you?”, it will often be welcomed. Asking is not difficult. Be brave. Ask.
Then listen to them. Focused, laser-beam listening. And do you know what you will often find under the surface?
Honesty. The real deal about how they really are. It’s something we all long for and value, honesty. And it’s right there, just under the surface.
I encourage you to look a little longer, ask a little more, listen a lot harder.
This part is vital: if someone shares their honesty with you, treat it as a treasure. Don’t throw it away, don’t trample on it, don’t share it without permission. Hold it carefully in your hands and in your heart. Pray. Be trustworthy with it, because you have a piece of their heart in your hands, and that is a treasure.
2) Broken does not mean ruined. The butterfly had a broken wing.
He was broken, yet he still flew. He was imperfect and remained bright and beautiful.
The analogy is obvious. We are broken, imperfect, and yet Jesus loves us and sings over us. Even when we ignore Him and don’t listen to Him and forget what He has done for us and get distracted by the world, still He loves us.
Don’t believe the lie that you are too broken and beyond repair for Him, or that you must first repair yourself and then come to Jesus. He loves you as you are!
3) God does things for me that I never see. I stealthily stalked this butterfly with my feet and camera with no success. I gave up and looked to another subject to photograph. Amazingly, the butterfly then came to me! He landed on the plant I was looking at:
It was a gift to me, a visible, tangible gift. A sweet little wink from the Lord. Loving and sweet, just for me.
What about the gifts from Him I never see? What does He do for me that I am not aware of? He is my Advocate. What does he say for me? and you? And my loved ones?
Maybe there is protection, like a delay that keeps me from being in a car accident. Perhaps the Holy Spirit prompts someone to pray for me. I imagine battles unseen, fought by angels who have my back. Who knows?
For all You do for me, seen and unseen, Lord, I thank You.