A couple weeks ago I had a delightful reunion with my college roommates just outside of Charlotte, NC. I love these ladies, and I remember that especially when we come together after being apart for a length of time. We spent the weekend eating, laughing, crying, adventuring and praying. As I was about to leave my friend Emily’s house, I saw a cute green caterpillar hanging outside her kitchen window. I exclaimed, “Aw!! You’re going to get to watch that caterpillar become a BUTTERFLY!” Emily, very nonchalantly remarked, “Actually, I think he’s stuck in a spider’s web.”
*Blink blink*… Hold up. He IS in a web!
I ran outside onto her deck and yelled, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!!!!!!!” I removed the victim from the source of entrapment…snatched safely away from the jaws of destruction! Just to the right of where I had rescued him I saw another web; in this one was another caterpillar, already dead. I was sad. I couldn’t save that one, but I DID save this one! I put my new little pet on the deck table while I swiftly took down any and all spiders and their associated webs. They wouldn’t be killing any more caterpillars on my watch!
I put my little buddy in an empty water bottle with leaves and a stone. My friends laughed and said, “Only YOU, Britt.” Haha, probably true. But this was MY caterpillar. I had saved him and I would keep him safe through the process of becoming a BUTTERFLY! He made the 3.5 hour trip back home to Athens, GA. I made him a special sanctuary out of a former Animal Cracker box at our office. I filled it with a plethora of leaves, rocks, sticks, and acorns. (Thanks goes to my friend and co-worker Taylor, aka Tay Tay, for offering his vast terrarium-creating wisdom!)
I named my caterpillar “Renato”, which is Portuguese for Renée (my middle name), meaning “rebirth” or “born again”. (I had met a Brazilian waiter at a French restaurant a couple month back with this name. The restaurant’s name you ask? Bread and Butterfly. Can’t make this stuff up, folks.) My hopes were soaring high for my little Renato.
As time passed, I started noticing something strange. He looked less green, smaller, thinner, and he had FAR less energy. I had done my research, watching every YouTube video on the process of metamorphosis, and I knew that it would be no more than a couple of weeks from the time I had found him until he entered the chrysalis stage. Maybe his lethargic behavior was normal, like a bear preparing for hibernation.
One morning I looked into his habitat and I couldn’t see him. I could not do anything until I knew his whereabouts and his state of being. I took EVERYTHING out of the container. Finally I found him…wriggling in the dirt with some kind of sticky mass on his back. I panicked…Something’s wrong with my caterpillar!!! This isn’t normal. This is not the way it was supposed to go. I took him out and poured water on him to wash off the dirt. Then I began trying to help with the sticky mass on his back…only to find that it was most likely him beginning to wriggle out of his skin to form the chrysalis. I had been trying to pick off, not a parasite, but his true self trying to be birthed!
I immediately began searching YouTube again, but this time for what to do when your caterpillar is metamorphosing on the ground. I found that he could make the change on the ground and that I could suspend him after the fact. So, I waited. He was on a leaf on my desk. I kept looking at him, prodding him when he seemed weak…I wasn’t sure what was happening, but something didn’t seen right. He was supposed to keep trying to change, make the effort, ya know? But he seemed like he was giving up….No. NO. NO!!!!
My friend Raymond came into my office as I was borderline crying at the situation. He said, “Brittany, put him back in the container and let nature take it’s course. You can’t MAKE him change, he has to make that choice. No one can make it except for him. He’s just like us; he’s at a crossroads and he must choose life or death.” I listened, stunned. I felt utterly helpless. But I knew he was right. I couldn’t make Renato change. I had saved him. I had given him a home. I had great plans for him and his future life as a BUTTERFLY. I put him back in the container and took him home with me for the weekend.
I prayed for him. I begged God to heal him and give him the energy to change. I said, “I know you’re able God! Please. Please. Please, don’t let him die.”
The next morning I found him virtually lifeless, with a chunk of black-what-would-have-been-cocoon hanging out of his back. In a couple more hours, he died. I knew God could have healed him, but I also knew I needed to trust that God had a lesson in this. I brought him, on a leaf, to a park where I sent him down a stream and gave him back to God…and, let’s be real, probably to a bird for food.
I know this is a long story about a caterpillar. But let me explain. I fight for life with all that is within me. I fight for the best…to a fault I see the best in people. I BELIEVE God for the miraculous. 2 Samuel 14:14 has become one of my favorite Scriptures, thanks to my roommate and friend, Kathy, for highlighting it for me. But what do I do when things don’t work out happily like I want them to? What if the people I love never turn to Jesus, no matter how hard I share with them about His goodness and His love? What if I do everything in my power to influence them for good…to no avail? What happens when my brother in Christ (whom I’ve been praying and fasting for for the past year) dies from the cancer I believed God to heal him of?
Firstly, I would say no good goes unseen by God. But people must choose their response to Christ’s love for themselves. We are to share and show the love of Christ, and we do not get to control the response. Love doesn’t control. It sets free. I think of our Savior as He looked over the land of His people saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37) Jesus was heartbroken over the people who rejected His love, and He still is today. But sometimes we can do more harm than good if we prod people too hard. The Agape Love of Christ then becomes twisted into a conditional, earthly love. That’s no good. Sometimes sad things happen and we don’t know what went wrong. But we look to God, where our help comes from. And we trust He is moving and His character has never changed.
So little Renato, I’m sorry. But your life was not in vain. Your short-lived life taught me these lessons. I want to be used to save many more lives from the web of lies that the enemy spins to capture those created in the image of God. But then, I want to love the ones God uses me to liberate (and the ones He doesn’t) with a heavenly love; a love that sets them free to serve Christ out of reciprocated love, not out of fear or control. I will always encourage people to be what God has created them to be, but I will not push and prod. God, thank you for this lesson, and help me to put this into practice. Amen.