Monday, April 26, 2010

Butterfly Hope

When I was 15 and 16 years old, I didn't understand much about God, but I knew that I wanted to know for certain that He was real and that He loved me. So sometimes I would ask Him to give me something to assure me that He was real and that He cared.

And He started sending me butterflies-- which was exciting to me at the time, because I had specifically asked Him to send my butterflies. I remember the first time very well. I was working, and I remember praying God, if You're there, touch me-- send me a butterfly. I opened a door. A butterfly was sitting on the ground right in front of the door, gently fluttering its brown-orange wings as it rested.

This happened twice more, and each time was a little bit more meaningful. It was never in the same place, in fact once it was in a different state, but every time the butterfly looked exactly the same, and every time the butterfly left without me having any concept of where it had gone. They didn't fly away. They just were not anymore.

The last time it happened was in late June, the summer I was 16, and it was notable because that time I didn't ask God for it. I was on a walk. It was the first time I'd left the safety of my immediate surroundings in days, and because of that I felt vulnerable. I was waiting for my younger sister and a friend to catch up with me, and I was standing beneath some thick trees, because Texas summers are warm. Inside, I was in a place that seemed too dark to escape from. I felt locked in a cage, trapped in lines that seemed much too solid to ever be erased. I hadn't been sleeping or eating, and so my world was a gray blur.

A butterfly landed on a tree directly in front of me, a bit of orange against the green and the brown. I saw it, and understood what it meant, because I'd seen it before. It was God whispering I'm right here. Hold on.

It was the next day that I accepted that Jesus loved me for the first time.

Nearly three years have gone by, and I have never again seen a butterfly that looked quite like the ones I saw back then. But lately it has been on my mind a lot.

I think I have a twisted idea of hope sometimes. I often view it as being about happiness, or about looking forward to some event that I know for certain will happen. I think of it as some consistent, driving force that should make me forever smile and say "it will be OK." I've had that idea somewhat challenged over the past few months.

There's an interesting bit in Romans 5. I wrote a 13-page paper on the first 11 verses of this chapter when I was a freshman, but I missed this. Paul writes but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

What I find interesting is that hope isn't immediate. It's not "when you suffer you will still hope," or even "once you suffer you will learn hope." This may not be very scholarly, but I think there's a reason Paul wrote it this way. Sometimes we have to persevere before we find hope. There is something about holding on without hope that produces a character in us that can hope.

I couldn't hope, when I was 16. I had no concept of what it would be like to hold onto the idea that God is a constant in a world where pain is ultimately just a temporary curtain of rain. I couldn't believe that there was certainty that tomorrow would not always be like today. And so God sent me butterflies, even though He didn't have to. He sent me whispers-- hold on. Just a little longer. And a joy I had never imagined and could never have deserved came and took hold of my life.

Because ultimately, the only hope that rings true is hope in the Lord-- hope in His love, in His ability to rescue, in the idea that He is faithful and thus will bring sunrises after every night. Hope in His promise of redemption and resurrection. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit...

I don't know if all of this really makes sense. Towards the end of the semester, everything feels disjointed, chaos spilled onto pages. But maybe all I'm really trying to say is this: don't be afraid to hope in God's love, because it won't let you down. And for the moments you aren't brave enough to hope, hold on. Hope will come, even if you can't believe it yet.

"Idea of hope, I believe in you. I need it now: God, I need You."
- The Rocket Summer

Right now I don't know much about tomorrow, but for the first time in a long time I am daring to believe that it will be better than today. And even for the times I can't believe that, still I will cling to the butterflies as they whisper...

Don't give up.

- Elraen, Wandering Star-


Elyiana said...

That is one of my favorite verses precisely because of the ordering of the phrases. I too think it is very, very, intentionally done that way as a reminder to all readers - us included.

Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful. Thank you. :)-- Angel