We live near one of the most beautiful places I know, Frederick Meijer Garden. It’s a world-renown sculpture park and botanical garden.
Every March and April this organization bring in hundreds of butterfly chrysalis and moth cocoons and allow them to hatch within the confines of the tropical garden. The visitors walk inside a dreamland of fluttering color.
Awhile back, I took my daughter early specifically to watch a different display than the flying butterflies. We came to watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalis.
It’d been a rough not the night before. Emotion overflowed my senses and my girl and I needed the retreat.
We ran from our car through the chilly air, giggling at our wild dash as we burst into the warmth of the garden lobby.
Breaking through the black net panels, we entered a gloriously humid, man-made Eden. In the brilliant sunlight, the butterflies became a mass of chaotic color, swirling and diving for nectar and fruit.
Our destination was on the far side of the garden. Nestled between a story high waterfall and a garden of orchids squats a strange glassed-in hut with dozens of horizontal padded bars. Pinned to the bars are hundreds of chrysalis.
Several butterflies had already emerged.
Hungry to see life metamorphasized, we stood and looked for shaking chrysalis.
We didn’t have to wait long.
A set of orange-tipped black antennae broke through the dark caterpillar-shaped sack. And soon a head emerged, the thread-like proboscis straightened, and then curled back against the chin of the newly emerging butterfly.
As I watched the creature struggle and strain, tears gathered in my eyes. I recognized the terror of a dark, claustrophobic space, and the struggle to cast off old, dried skin. “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self.”
The butterfly tugged and pulled against his former home.
Finally one crumpled wing broke out, and then another. He stumbled free, grasping the bar holding his disposed of sack. His black and red were wadded in on themselves. Moisture dotted trash left behind on wobbly, exhausted legs.
I wanted to say, “Brother, you should have seen me last night.” And I realized that in that moment, I found him absolutely beautiful.
And it was as if the butterfly himself whispered, “Right back at you.” I am beautiful.
My struggle, my not-quite-rightness, my trying to get there, crumpled self is beautiful. Tweet This
Then the volunteer expert leaned over and said that because the butterfly took a long time to break free, he will be particularly strong.
And there it was. Beauty in the struggle. There isn’t a single one of us that enjoys struggle, but it seems to be true regardless:
Struggle begets beauty.Tweet This
It’s a controversial topic—that there’s things inside struggle that are beautiful.
One of the greatest men who ever lived was bound in agony, rejection, pain, then wrapped in strips of death cloth, closed in claustrophobic darkness of a tomb, and emerged stronger because of it. Sound familiar?
But here’s where his struggle separates from the butterfly: this man’s struggle was all for others—it was a beautiful sacrifice. This is where it gets hard. He calls his followers to embrace this idea that struggle is beautiful.
If I call myself a disciple, and I do, I’m called to struggle. This is where I want to run away. Not talk about it. Leave it for others. The pain I have in this world is nothing—NOTHING—compared to most. My pain is mostly in the past…except…
Except when that I, that we, are called to choose the difficult path. To brave the things that are different. To be a part of this world, but not love the comforts we find here. I am trying, but it is oh so very hard. I’m questioning, reasoning, feeling…and confused. I wish it were easier. I wish there weren’t refugee camps where there are no children because armed men have kidnapped them all. I wish there was a caring parent for every child. I wish…I wish I had the answers.
But I don’t.
I’m cursed with the questions and how to live with them.
I don’t know how all the ugly becomes beautiful, but I’ve seen it happen. One thing I do know is that when we go through trials, we have a choice in how to respond. I’ve seen beauty emerge from a twist of dried leaves and caterpillar spit. But I’ve also seen a dead caterpillar sprawled on a pile of leaves. And I’ve seen the kids of a single mom blossom and change the world as adult.
See, it’s up to me how to respond to the stuff I have. I think I’ve broken out of my chrysalis. Now I just need to breathe for a bit, let my wings dry and fly.