(A short story about purpose, transformation, and never settling.)

The butterfly was terrified.

Hurting, hungry, alone, and now captured, she wondered, “What happened to me? How did I end up like this? I never thought this could happen to me.”

The Enchanted Forest

The forest was a large, beautiful, tantalizing place. Birds chirped their cheery song under the large, green canopy.

The butterfly had never seen such beauty and variation. She flitted everywhere. Landing here, landing there. Not a care in the world. She had been a caterpillar so long, restricted to crawling. Her transformation had been difficult, the chrysalis her tight little coffin. Yet, the process yielded its prize and the butterfly soared high and free.

But there was much she didn’t know. Amidst such grandeur and freedom, there were people who had never seen such a butterfly. Having never known her struggles as a caterpillar, they had no idea of the constriction of her chrysalis or her complete transformation. They saw the glory but didn’t know her story.

They also didn’t know how delicate and tender she was. Though glorious in flight, her wings could carry no other load. Strong eagles could swoop down and carry their prey to the heights of their nests. Ravens and buzzards also flew away, food gripped in their claws. But the butterfly didn’t have such strong wings. Though gorgeous, they were intended to fly free from burden or restriction.

As the butterfly flew, the sun’s radiance reflected her beauty in flight. Slight breezes, pregnant with the scent of far-off nectar, lofted her tenderly. The forest was quiet and peaceful. All was well in the world.

The Unsuspected Danger

Unknown to the butterfly, she caught the eye of one of the forest people. He first noticed her in a sunlit meadow. Curious, he tracked her for miles. He marveled from afar at her freedom, stunning beauty, and carefree spirit. He noticed she rested from time to time. This allowed the sun’s warmth to renew and refresh her wings for further flight.

Naturally, the young man fell in love with the beautiful butterfly. He’d never seen anything like her before. She mesmerized him, floating so graciously and freely. She was glorious in flight. There was nothing like her in his entire forest.

He thought, “I’d like to take her home. Her beauty would brighten it up, fanning her wings from room to room. She would mesmerize me. My whole family would congratulate me for finding something so incredible. We could watch her for hours. Our whole village would envy us for the beauty this creature will bring to our home.”

So he watched the butterfly, noticing her patterns of flight and rest. Which flowers drew her attention. How long she rested. He began positioning himself nearer to where the butterfly would land. He knew he could never catch her inflight. Having no wings, he couldn’t match her speed or freedom. He could never catch her while she rested high in the sunlight. He would scare her off as he climbed. No, he would have to catch her while she was resting.

The Carefree Innocence

But the butterfly was clueless and careless. She was free, flying higher than ever. She tasted the nectar from every flower. Never again would she be bound to the ground, to crawl along, eating worm food like the rest of the caterpillars. Oh no, such a lowly, slow, creepy-crawly destiny would never happen again. This new, wide, high world now belonged to her and it needed exploring, discovering, and tasting.

Occasionally she saw other butterflies. “Wow, what beautiful creatures,” she thought—not realizing her own beauty. Sometimes, they rested on the same flower or branch and talked. They shared stories of their past. Flapping their wings, they admired the transformative struggle into their new life. But mostly, they laughed and encouraged each other in their newfound, unbound freedom.

The Warning

One day, this young butterfly met a much older butterfly. He was bigger, stronger, and wiser. Experience had taught him to avoid the shadows, where to find the sweetest flowers, when and where to rest. Noting her youth and inexperience, he strongly warned against going into the forest. Shadows blocked the strength-inducing sun and restricted growth. The flowers growing there were not the kind with sweet nectar. Nectar flowers needed lots of sunshine. He also warned her that he was almost trapped by some forest people. He barely escaped and made it his mission to warn others.

His stories fascinated the little butterfly. She listened intently, slowly flapping her wings in the sun, drinking fresh nectar. She had no restrictions and wanted to fly free to enjoy this big, new wonderful, free, sweet world. This was her calling, her purpose, her destiny. Nothing could hold her back! Nothing could harm, much less trap, her. What almost happened to the older butterfly would never happen to her! He must have been too big or too slow. She was small, quick, and could flit away quickly.

Besides, she hadn’t seen any forest people. Maybe they didn’t exist. What if the older butterfly was just trying to scare her away from the best flowers he knew were in the forest? That was it! He knew the forest was the place to be and was trying to keep it all to himself! Well, she would show him.

So she flitted carelessly but deliberately into the forest.

The Unfulfilled Temptation

At first, the shade was inviting. The sun was refreshing, but it did get hot after a while. The shadows didn’t look all that scary. Flitting from one tree to the next, she lost track of how deep into the forest she flew. She also failed to notice she no longer detected the smell of sweet-flower nectar. The forest air was a bit stale and musty.

Hours passed and she grew tired and hungry. Where were those sweet flowers the old butterfly was trying to hide from her?

Coming in for a closer look, she buzzed the ground. Around this tree, that mossy stump, a dead log, around some looping vines. But there were no flowers. Actually, the forest reminded her more of her days as a caterpillar. A caterpillar would be quite at home in a dark, damp, decaying forest. Leaves provided hiding places. Rotting stumps yielded plenty of worm food. Yes, a caterpillar would love it here. But it was no place for a butterfly. Nothing in the forest was compatible with what the butterfly needed.

But she pressed on because she just knew the older butterfly had a secret stash somewhere. He was holding out on her, trying to hold her back, trying to mislead or control her. She decided her enthusiasm and innocence trumped his experience and warning. He would be sadly mistaken when she found his patch of sweet flowers. She would show him. Being finally free, she would drink to her heart’s content and come and go as she pleased. She wasn’t afraid of the forest and no one would control her.

The Inevitable Capture

As she flew, she didn’t notice the lurking, shadowy figure following her. It hid behind trees, stumps, fallen logs. Always in sight of her but never close enough to be seen or to scare her. He was on a mission. Her beauty hypnotized him, drawing him on, each step bringing his plan into focus. He knew the butterfly would soon tire from her long flight. She would grow faint from lack of food. She would have to rest and then he would claim her as his prize.

So it was that while she rested, far from her needed sunlight and nectar, a dark net whooshed upon her. Startled, she tried to fly away. But it was too late. The net pressed her down like she had never felt before.

“What is this? Why is this happening? Get off of me! This hurts! The pressure is crushing me!” Her cries fell on deaf ears. The young man didn’t speak or understand butterfly. And no other butterfly ventured this far into the forest. She was alone.

The Pain is the Lesson

The young man lifted the net ever so slightly so he could reach in and grab the butterfly. He had to have her! She would be his! His prize! His glory! Oh, his family would be so proud of him. This creature would fly around and make everything beautiful. Her stunning wings would brighten their home.

With fingers clutching the butterfly, he didn’t realize he was crushing her tender wings. He was damaging the very thing of beauty he so desired. His desire to capture and control destroyed what had captured and controlled his heart.

The butterfly was scared and in pain. This pressure was worse than the chrysalis. At least the chrysalis was smooth and had a purpose. This new restraint was calloused, hard, and painful. She could barely breathe. Her crushed wings hurt unbearably. She cried as loud as she could but the young man couldn’t hear or understand. Nor could he for they were from too different worlds. In his obsession, he simply crushed her tighter and plodded deeper into the forest.

Then the butterfly had a crazy thought. “Maybe he knows where the secret flower patch is. That’s it, he’s trying to help me! He’s taking me there. This is just another part of my painful journey toward true freedom and glorious flight. I guess I’ll hang on and bear the pain a bit longer.”

Hours passed. The young man leaped over granite outcroppings. He overstepped fallen trees and sloshed through flooded streams. Finally they arrived at the young man’s forest home.

He shouted, “Father! Mother! Family! Come see what I caught today! You’ve never seen anything like it! Prepare to be impressed!”

Unintended World’s Collide

In this part of the gloomy forest, they’d never experienced much excitement. They’d grown used to forest life. It was quiet and cool. It smelled like home. They liked being alone in this serene place. No one bothered them. The forest provided all they needed and they were content. They were forest people and that’s how forest people lived.

But the forest is no place for a butterfly.

Gathering around, the young man inched open his hand, quickly clamping a jar over the crumpled butterfly. Through “Oohs” and “Ahhs,” the family didn’t hear the butterfly’s pitiful cries. Having never seen such a sight, they didn’t know her wings should extend fully in radiant sunshine. Not crumpled under a jar in dingy shadows. They didn’t know stale, musty, forest air couldn’t substitute the fresh breezes of open meadows flooded with flower scent. They didn’t know a butterfly needed to fly free, to drink nectar, to rise above it all. She needed freedom, not captivity.

The young man knew the butterfly must be hungry. So his family brought some twigs, moss, and leaves. Such food would have elated a caterpillar. But the butterfly’s tastes had changed. This food wouldn’t give her life. It wouldn’t help heal or strengthen her damaged wings. All she could do was lay there. Crumpled, hungry, earthbound, and on display. Around her was what would have satisfied in her previous lifetime. But not now.

Her glory faded but the family still rejoiced. They cherished her beauty. She was theirs. They displayed her proudly and often. Hold up the jar and there she was! The last time they’d had this much excitement was when they filled that same jar with fireflies. They didn’t remember those fireflies died as a result of their misguided desires and joy.

The Rescuing Stranger

One day, a stranger stopped by. He was passing through the forest and needed a slight rest. True to form, out came their prize. How impressed he would be! No one else in the forest had such radiant beauty. It was like capturing the sun or throwing a net around the moon!

Little did they know, this man was quite familiar with and fond of butterflies. He had seen many of them, actually studied them as his hobby. Their beauty, grandeur in flight, and incredible transformation also mesmerized him. He knew their God-given purpose. God made them to grow strong, fly high, drink nectar, and fulfill their part of His incredible universe.

Horrified at what he saw, he exclaimed, “What have you done? You’ve not only hurt and crumpled this poor thing but you’re killing her! How can you be so calloused and cruel? This butterfly was never meant to be shut up in a jar in the shadows. She was never meant for the forest. Her destiny is the sunshine. She was meant for flight, for nectar.”

The family scowled at him. “We didn’t know. We don’t have any flowers or nectar. And we don’t really like the sunshine. We like the coolness, shade, and fantastic smell of the forest. We like this butterfly and we’re keeping her here. What’s wrong with that?”

Different Purposes, Differing Motives

“You love the forest because you were made for the forest. And that is perfectly okay.” Motioning toward the butterfly, he continued, “But she was not. You love the coolness and shade. The butterfly wasn’t made for such an environment. You enjoy displaying her in this jar. But that is killing her. What she needs you cannot give.”

“But she flew into the forest!” the young man shouted. “She came into our territory of her own free will.”

“She is young, naïve, and inexperienced. But that shouldn’t be her death sentence,” the stranger replied.

“What should we do?” they all chorused. “How do we nurse her back to health? How can she regain her beauty?”

The stranger pleaded, “I speak butterfly. I know she’s in pain, struggling, and will die soon. Please give her to me. I’ll take her out of the forest. I’ll nurse her back to health. Once she is strong enough, I’ll set her free. Only then can she fulfill her God-appointed purpose.”

“But then we’ll lose her,” the family protested.

“She was never yours to begin with,” the man corrected. “She is far away from where she should be, isn’t able to do what she should be doing, and won’t last much longer. What you call love, pride, and joy is death for her. Her beauty is fading. Her strength is gone. She will soon die. Then what will you do?”

“I’ll go back to the sunshine and get another one!” exclaimed the young man.

“And you’ll get the same result,” answered the wise stranger. “Why not find something from the forest in which to invest your time, attention, and affection? It would be far better for all involved. You’d be much happier. It would flourish here in this environment. You’d be made for each other.”

The Road Home

Tenderly, the stranger lifted the butterfly from her manmade coffin. Placing her in a soft napkin, he carried her out of the forest. Along the way, he reassured her everything would be alright. Once in the sunlight, she would regain health, strength, and sense of purpose. God made her specifically for sunshine, flowers, light breezes, and sweet nectar. Only there would she be able to fulfill her part of His overall purpose.

God also created forest people for the forest. Only there would they enjoy His peace, calm, tranquility, and forest beauty. There would they hear His Spirit stirring in the tops of trees. Only there would they have stillness of soul to rest in His presence and glorify Him.

Never settle for a shaded forest if you were meant for sunlit flight. If you love something or someone, release your grasp and hold it gently. You may suffocate what you attempt to capture and control. Unless God sovereignly intersects your journeys, avoid the appeal of the North Star.

Find out who you are, who God created you to become, what God designed you to do, where He appointed you to be. Listen to those who God places in your life to encourage, warn, and direct you along your journey. In all your ways, acknowledge, include, and surrender to Him. He has promised to guide you to where you can bring Him the greatest glory while achieving your greatest destiny.

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