Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:11
Yesterday afternoon, I narrowly escaped a collision with a black swallowtail butterfly. I was sitting in the car with my window down. I had pulled off the road to answer a phone call. I saw him (or her) coming from a long way off. It was a seemingly harmless, tiny black speck at first, but as it got closer and closer, and got bigger and bigger, I became more and more convinced it was heading straight for my face. Then, at the last second, it veered upward, disappearing from sight, crisis averted.
With the exception of these few fearful seconds, I normally consider butterflies a thing of beauty, a marvel of God’s creation. Not only in terms of their physical appearance, but the way they seem to effortlessly ride invisible currents of air, floating delicately from flower to flower. For all of us who grow tired of the dark, cold days of winter, they are a welcome harbinger of spring, a reminder that the longer, brighter, and warmer days of summer are coming.
Recently someone brought to my attention something the well-known poet, Maya Angelou, said about butterflies. She observed that, “we delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” I think the same thing could be said of the way we appreciate the beauty of the most sincere followers of Jesus. We can all think of saintly people we know, people who are so selfless, humble, gracious, compassionate, and forgiving that we think we are looking at Jesus when we are looking at them. While we admire them, and even say we want to be like them, we forget their transformation was not painless or easy.
It’s hard work to become the beautiful creatures God intends for us to be. To be sure, any transformation we experience is a gift of God’s grace, but in order for it to take place we must cooperate with him. We must accept the necessary discipline God wants to lovingly administer if we are to be changed into the likeness of Jesus. And we must allow him to redeem every trial we experience, even those for which we are responsible, if we want to know the fullness of his salvation. If butterflies could talk, I’m sure they would tell you everything they had to go through to become what God created them to be was worth it.