Be a Butterfly

Don't fear transformation in your marriage.

A caterpillar has its own charm, but God’s desire is for that caterpillar to experience a transformation and become a butterfly.

I doubt that the caterpillar knows to expect a transformation, but it does know to do the task it faces: spin the cocoon that allows the transformation to occur.

It emerges, with a brand new beauty and wings to fly.

I’ve been thinking about butterflies this week. Butterflies and death.

My beloved mother-in-law died last week, shedding her weary earthly body to be in the arms of Jesus.

My father-in-law’s arms are now empty. I stood next to him when he first saw his wife’s body in the casket. I was witness to his words of love. The next day I held onto him as he wept at her grave and spoke more words from the depths of his heart.

Relief

The poignancy of witnessing my husband’s father’s grief-laden words has gotten me wondering about the words that will be spoken by the surviving spouse when one of us dies. What words will our family members hear?

When the intimacy in our marriage was unhealthy or practically non-existent, I would think of death as a bringer of relief. I imagined the sense of being freed that either of us might feel upon being released from the constraints of a marriage that had left us feeling lonely and apart from each other. The thought that my husband might feel relief at my death was sobering—not sobering enough for me to do anything about it, but just enough that it bothered me. More often than not, I was the one I expected to feel relief.

Regret

When I thought about how it would be to feel relief at the sign of my husband in a casket, I occasionally wondered if my relief would transform into regret. As hard as it would be to feel relief while burying a spouse, I suspect it is even harder to bury a spouse while filled with regret.

My grief for my mother-in-law is tangled up in feelings of regret for the things I didn’t do: call enough, visit more, thank her for being a mother-in-law worth grieving, and truly see her as a woman aside from her roles as wife, mom, mother-in-law, and grandma.

I knew her for 30 years, and it was only after her death that I knew that she loved butterflies. As my sister-in-law and I sorted through clothing, we saw many items with butterflies on them. I realized then that her love of butterflies had been evident for years, had I only bothered to see–especially in the bedroom she decorated for me when I was dating Big Guy. She’d decorated it with butterflies—in picture frames, in the bed sheets, on the water basin, and on the wall. I realize now what an act of love and welcome that was from her.

When I wondered if I would feel regret at my husband’s grave, I would sometimes wonder about my final words to him. I often found myself thinking, I’m sorry I wasn’t a better wife. I’m sorry sex was such an issue. I’m sorry I wasn’t the wife you deserved.

I chose not to do certain things because I thought they would be hard and I expected them to hurt. At a certain point, I believed that I was too old to change. I was too set in my ways. What is the point? I would think.

Facing the possible hurt from risk-taking was hard—but it would have been worse to have to live with regret that I didn’t try to make things better.

How heart-achingly sad it is to think of all the people who bury a spouse while filled with regret–never again able to transform their marriage into something better, seeing too late what had been there all along.

Transformation

The precious moments with my grieving father-in-law reminded me that I will never regret the work I did in pursuing intimacy with my husband.

Changing my thoughts, actions, and feelings about sexual intimacy was frightening. It seemed risky. When I began to work on sexual intimacy, I had no idea that I would undergo a transformation. I just did the task I faced, one task at a time, slowly spinning the many strands of healing that allowed the transformation to occur. After a while, I emerged as a new kind of wife.

I don’t want to be a widow who is filled with regret any more than I want my husband to be filled with relief if I go first.

I want to be worthy of the same deep grief I witnessed in my father-in-law.

I want to be a butterfly.

Consider what you might regret as you say a final goodbye at your husband’s grave. Would you regret allowing him to know you deeply? Would you regret keeping your heart for yourself? Would you regret stepping outside your comfort zone? Or staying inside it? Would you regret having sex because he wanted to feel close to you? Would you regret not having worked on the issues that made sex a struggle?

Would you regret intimacy? For most of us, I think the answer to that is no.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

Don’t face a life filled with regret. Don’t be afraid of a transformation.

Instead, do a new thing.

Be a butterfly.

Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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7 Comments on “Be a Butterfly”

  1. Did your father know that a butterfly who is helped to get out of its cocoon, or a chick or bird attempting and struggling to extract itself from the eggshell will die or fail to thrive? The insect or animal NEEDS the struggle and the hard work in order to thrive.

    A tree planted and grown indoors away from the wind and storm has no strength. It too Needs the struggle to be strong and survive.

    How many marriages fail to thrive because one spouse fails to do the necessary hard work to make themselves and thier marriage strong and thrive?

    Those who decide to work on intimacy and sex in thier marriage are doing the hard work necessary and ought to be commended. We must pray for those spouses who have not made that decision and thier marriages struggle to thrive.

    Apparently it is pretty evident that God created struggle not solely as hardship. But as a defining fire to make the alloy of our lives stronger, something more. Something better than we were before the struggle.

    But if we avoid facing the hardship, we only hurt ourselves and our marriage.

    Be courageous!

  2. Funny, I used to fantasize a lot about death as a relief, but I never pictured my husband’s death; I pictured my own. I would be free from pain (which was the primary appeal) and my husband would be free of me. I increased my life insurance; the main tangible way that my husband’s life is different because of me is because of a second income and healthy savings account. I don’t have a ton of insurance, but enough to pay off all bills and pay for a dog walker and have a lot left over to have fun with (not enough to retire or anything). It made me feel like I was taking care of things. And then I could picture dying, and it was like I just slipped out of a crowded party. I could sneak away and no one would know or care.

      1. I know I’m being melodramatic. My mom would definitely care, and my stepson would. My boss would at least be inconvenienced, and I have some friends who would be sad. But for my husband, the only difference in his life would be that I wouldn’t be working from home to take care of the dogs. Everything else would be something he doesn’t care about (cooking v eating out) or that doesn’t really exist (sex, children, companionship). I’ve tried to track how we actually interact, and I would say probably 75% of the time, he is frustrated to have me around. Like, I’m making noise cooking and he’s on his laptop at the dining room table, or I interrupt him watching TV. It’s painful to know that the only impact I have on his life is being an annoyance. Like, if I actually told him this, I know he’d be upset, but I think he’d be so much happier if I were dead. It’d be perfect, actually. He could have this fantasy wife that he can idealize without ever having to interact with. And also money from the life insurance.

        (PS, I don’t fantasize about dying any more. For real. It was taking me some dark places, and I don’t want to go there.)

        1. I’m so glad you are doing better. I was a little concerned but didn’t know how to get in touch with you to check in. You are God’s precious and beloved daughter. What are you doing to help yourself reach for God’s blessings despite your husband’s attitude? And how are you praying for your husband? Someone who is that easily irritated and who interacts so little with his wife does not sound like a man filled with God’s spirit or with much joy at all.

        2. Honestly, I haven’t thought like that in a really long time, like a couple of years. I’ve been feeling sad lately. The last round of IUI failed, and given our sex life, the possibility of ever being a mother is pretty remote. It’s making me sad, both for the motherhood and for the reason for it.

          But these things, like imagining dying, are just memories of bad times. It’s not me. 🙂

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