It is 7:30 pm, Monday night. I am sitting at the kitchen table, starting to type.
Normally this would be a blog post written by my wife Carey. Although I have blogged as a guest before, they were all planned in advance. Tonight is a bit different.
Through my wife’s blogs (and even some of mine if you’ve had the chance to read them) you may have had the opportunity to learn about some aspects of our lives. Outwardly it may appear that we have everything put together, that everything has gone well and that we are cruising through life. Our jobs are going well, our kids are getting A’s and B’s, no one in the house has had a car accident this year and that our family vacations that we take leave us renewed and refreshed. However, inwardly, we hurt just like you may.
Anger. Tears. Anxiety. Grief. Pain. Hurt. Loss. Confusion.
Seven years ago our niece, Hope, passed away. She was five days old. Although many tears have been shed, and life has gone on as best as we can make it, the pain still exists and she will not be forgotten.
That same year, I was diagnosed with a kidney disease. Countless needle pricks later and daily medication it is currently under control, but thoughts about the future lead to anxious periods.
Carey herself has written about what has affected her, from episodes of vertigo so bad she couldn’t move to more recently being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that can cause widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep and memory issues. There are days in which it’s a struggle for her to get out of bed giving the appearance that everything is alright.
Cancer. We have friends and family that have been affected by this dreaded disease. Some have conquered, some are still fighting but some lost their battles. Disease and sickness hit on a personal level. Tonight, a close friend of my wife and parents is struggling to live due to suffering a stroke. Why?
Our children are not immune either. In 2012, our cat Milo got sick and died suddenly at the young age of five. The loss and pain affected our younger daughter (at that time age 8) so much that she stopped eating, lost weight and we had to take her to see a psychologist.
Our older daughter, currently a junior in high school, has gone through a different type of loss as a teenager, one that no one should have to go through. In the last three years, two friends of hers have taken their own lives through suicide, with the most recent happening in July. The pain. The questions. The second guessing. The wishing that maybe, just maybe you could have done something, or said something, before it happened.
Finances. Bills. That one Christmas years ago when we were deep in debt, medical bills were piling up and we weren’t sure what to do about Christmas gifts. Yes, that was us.
Friendships. Sometimes the pain and loss isn’t ours but that from close friends. Their pain, their loss. Their struggles. Their hurts – our hurts. We grieve, we struggle with them.
Again – Anger. Tears. Anxiety. Grief. Pain. Hurt. Loss. Confusion.
But as I still sit here at the table, now about forty minutes later, I’ve been glancing over at this large flower vase sitting in front of me, which up until this evening had a black, yellow and white monarch caterpillar in it. You see, a few years ago I planted a milkweed flower variety in our front garden, the only type of plant that monarch caterpillars eat from. Soon after, we noticed the arrival of caterpillars, then the formation of several chrysalis and the birth of butterflies! This is quite an event as I’ve read that only about one caterpillar out of twenty five actually makes it to adulthood. Each year since, we have captured a couple caterpillars, brought them inside, and watched the process with our children.
This evening, our daughter witnessed something we had never seen before, the literal changing of the caterpillar into the chrysalis – sometimes what we refer to as a cocoon. Its body changed right before her eyes, as a jade green coating began to cover the skin. It seemed like a miracle. And in about 10-12 days we hope to see a beautiful butterfly.
So why do I bring up the caterpillar to butterfly story? I think about the life a caterpillar goes through. After its birth from an egg, it immediately begins to struggle as it becomes a target of predators – from animals, to mankind, to disease. As the caterpillars only eat plants from the milkweed family, its habitat is critical and unfortunately destroyed. It eats. And grows. And eats some more. And grows some more. And soon becomes a plump large bug with many legs. Sometimes not the prettiest for sure. And then one day it forms a chrysalis and life all of a sudden seems to be put on hold.
Humans take a similar path. As we grow and mature, we are affected by more and more things, some good, but some bad. Some days it seems that a target has been placed on our backs as we become prone to attacks. There are days we struggle – sometimes literally – to survive. Pain and suffering can set in. At times it results in death. At one point we can be on top of the highest peak and then the next day we find ourselves walking through the darkest valley. Sometimes alone. And scared. We’ve been there.
As the caterpillar’s life seems to be on hold while in the chrysalis, there is actually something deeper taking place. An internal change. In fact, a transformation from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.
So you may ask, how does this transformation relate to a human? How can one take something positive out of all the pain, suffering, disappointment and hurt they are going through? Where is the hope? Who does one turn to? How does one recover? How does one find the will to fight and survive?
I do not have all the answers. But I do know that one can experience a spiritual transformation through Jesus Christ, who Himself was transformed through pain and suffering on a cross about two thousand years ago. He was entombed in a “chrysalis” and all of a sudden it seemed that everything was put on hold. But He emerged three days later, with a transformed body much more beautiful than a butterfly. He hatched!
We’ve placed our hope in the transformed body of Jesus Christ – even when life hurts. Although we may personally be going through some difficult times, we can still praise God for the life He has given us, the friendships we have developed, the people’s lives we may touch even if we don’t realize it, the listening ear, the warm hug, the smile, the tears and the hope for reuniting with lost ones in an eternal home in the future.
I end in the words of a song by Hillsong United titled Oceans. I hope you too can find comfort in these lyrics as I do:
And I will call upon Your name
And Keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Keeping my eyes above the waves, even when it hurts,