Like a Butterfly, part 2
This is a continuation of yesterday's piece from Rachel.
In my mom’s words to me about a year before her passing (as quoted in yesterday’s first half of this essay), she compared our spiritual lives to the life phases of a butterfly: “So then, if you think of our lives as butterflies, death is the final stage of our metamorphosis. Before Christ is the sluggish life of a caterpillar when we’re just existing. Then the cocoon is our Christian life, resting in Christ and the process of being transformed. And in Heaven, just like the butterfly breaks out of its cocoon, we’ll also shed the constraints of this life and enter the soaring freedom of eternity.” For my mom, this metaphor wasn’t merely a lofty theological idea, but rather a clear explanation of how she’d always chosen to live her life.
She viewed the years of her youth before she welcomed God fully into her life as a sluggish existence, without much joy or purpose. She also clearly saw her life with God as a state of resting in Christ, letting Him transform her, and even using her pain to do so. I remember a phone call during my junior year of college, when I was still battling God over my own bitter resentment about Him not healing her. My mom said, “You know, Rachel, I’ve actually been thanking God lately for this disease. It’s because of the pain that I turn to Him in prayer all throughout the day. It’s why I need Him so constantly in my life. I don’t know where I would be without this physical reminder of my need for Him.”
And she meant it. Carolyn Conrad was a woman of the deepest faith I have ever personally witnessed, and she found life’s meaning in God alone. As Joan Chittister puts it, “The Word is clear: to follow Jesus is to live, no matter how many deaths we face in life” (121).* For my mom, it was simple. Life with God is simply better, richer, more meaningful, more joy-filled, and far more transformative than it ever could be without Him, even pain free. It took me a while to get there after losing her, but now I am resting in the promise that Mom is fully transformed in eternity with her Jesus. That when she breathed those last breaths, she experienced her own “spiritual blossoming,” shedding the constraints of this all-too-often painful life and entering the soaring freedom of eternity.
And just like the butterfly, we too can look forward to the freedom of our resurrection with Christ, even while we’re being transformed in the cocoon of this often painful and suffering-filled life. Lent “is about opening our hearts one more time to the Word of God in the hope that, this time, hearing it anew, we might allow ourselves to become new as a result of it” (Chittister 118-119). So, I invite you to join me as we close this vulnerable and heavy–yet still beautiful–journey of Lent and move toward Easter. Together, may we allow God to meet us in our pain, our desolation, our griefs, and our fears, and hear Him whisper hope to us once more.
*Joan Chittister’s quotes are from her book entitled The Seasons of Liturgy, which I’ve found personally helpful in understanding the meaning and depth of the liturgical seasons.