Warming Up My Wings
I’d never seen a butterfly lay so flat before.
The Butterflies Alive docent stepped over for a quick peek. “It’s fine—probably just warming up its wings. They do that.”
Warming up its wings? It looked more passed-out to me, like the poor thing had just collided with something big and hard, possibly also scary.
Before venturing outside to this glorious exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Nathan, Mom and Dad, and I had seen a case filled with cocoons and butterflies in various stages of transformation. I watched one frantically flitting around its enclosure, soaring gracefully one moment only to hit the wall the next. I know how that one feels. My mind flashed back to a time when attempting to soar upset the balance of my universe. Even after the issue got resolved I longing for my safe cocoon where, though it was cramped and sometimes hard to breathe, I at least knew how to behave and avoid conflict. One glance at the tiny cocoons in the top case and a half-hatched butterfly below it reminded me that once you’re out, there’s no going back. I couldn’t fit in there again if I tried. Plus butterflies are a lot prettier than cocoons. I’d rather be pretty and colorful. I didn’t see many people huddled around the cocoon case in awe and wonder. “Honey, get the camera! Oh my gosh, look at that one. It’s starting to quiver.”
Spreading my wings had sounded so lovely and freeing on the day I bought my butterfly necklace at Mount Hermon and declared it time to soar, and when I prayed with two friends at church that God would help me be braver. I’d had my writing life in mind then, not real life. A friend warned me that I would face opposition, “so be prepared.” I figured those would come in the form of a few haters who didn’t like my book, doing speaking engagements that required air travel, or being called to write something even more courageous than spilling the most painful years of my life into 52 devotions. Then I learned that breaking out of the cocoon meant flying into messy situations that might become writing material someday. It meant doing and saying hard things, occasionally getting the response, “I didn’t expect that from you,” and realizing I didn’t expect that from me either. It meant risking disagreeing with people; questioning and getting the opposite reaction of what I’d pictured; reeling afterward and wondering if I’d done something wrong or if everyone around me needed time to adjust to Butterfly Girl. Let’s face it, butterflies look beautiful in pictures, on flowers, and in that moment when we get to see them flutter, but when that same winged creature gets too close to our face, the natural human reaction is to jump back. What the heck was that? Oh, wait, just a butterfly.
Outside in the Butterflies Alive exhibit I got to see those that were truly free. Their wings were dry, they’d graduated from the enclosure (which I dubbed The Padded Cell) and were ready for public flight. Seeing them in their element made them ten times more stunning than those in the case. They were doing what God created them to do in the environment He’d created them for. But you know what? They still made mistakes. We were told to watch our step because some tended to rest on walkways. At least two tried to pollinate the flowers on my purse. One joined what he thought was a family reunion on Dad’s habitat guide.
They endured conflict and confrontation. They had to tolerate a paparazzi of amazed visitors snapping photos, a lot of pointing and starring, crying toddlers, and people like me getting way too close in order to see them. They were expected to pause from their work and pose for group pictures.
No wonder they needed to take time out to warm up their wings. I wonder if that’s a butterfly’s version of a morning quiet time, or stopping to pray before having a difficult conversation so she’s less likely to say something lame. Perhaps that’s what they do when they need rest and comfort after flying into a wall, trying to sip off a woman’s purse and feeling stupid afterward, or taking a really scary step like being released into Butterflies Alive for the first time and realizing how many of their exhibit mates are bigger and bolder than they are.
So I guess instead of longing for the cocoon after a less-than-ideal taking-flight moment, I can learn to warm up my wings more often.
Perhaps you need this too. How can you carve out time to warm up your wings today?
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17