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.
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.
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.
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.
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