When my girls were younger they were obsessed with the neighbour’s swan plants – so much so that she brought us over some branches in jars so the kids could have their own to look after! They were constantly checking for new caterpillars - watching them fatten up. And oh the excitement when they saw the chrysalis because they knew the butterfly was coming!
It is amazing to watch a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis. When I think about the butterfly I think about beauty, freedom, a new beginning - all ‘good’ things. But what we often overlook is what happens in the chrysalis to enable this beauty. When the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis, there is a period of liquification as the caterpillar breaks down in order to become the butterfly. Darkness, isolation; life being turned upside down and inside out; messy and uncertain circumstances - all the things that I would rather not talk about! And if I’m honest, rather not experience! I’m sure the caterpillar wonders if there is anything on the other side of this stage and season!
But there is no butterfly without the chrysalis. And the reality of this life, is that we too will experience seasons that feel like we are in the chrysalis – and we need to learn not to despise them so that we can appreciate the beauty that God is able to bring from them.
I am a glass half-full kinda girl. I believe that our God is able; I believe that He is a God of above and beyond; of breakthrough and miracles. But in 2014 I went through a year that tested the depths of my faith - I lost family and friends to cancer, I experienced precious relationships break down, I watched my father have two strokes and I experienced the grief of miscarriage, losing a much longed for baby 11 weeks into my pregnancy. And I wrestled, trying to reconcile my experiences with who I believed God to be. I even fought the wrestling; I just wanted to be the butterfly – I didn’t want the chrysalis.
Madeleine L'Engle writes:
Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without uncertainty, without doubt and even at times despair, believe only in the idea of God and not in God Himself.'
When we don't take time to wrestle, to offer up to God our questions, our pain, our disappointments and losses, then we rob ourselves of truly and fully knowing Him. We keep Him as a one-dimensional idea or concept, rather than allowing ourselves to experience the richness of who He is and how He desires to walk alongside us in the varying seasons of life. We must learn to embrace Him and His truth in the the seasons that can feel far away from ‘victorious Christian living.’
Paul, said in Philippians 3:10 that He wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. This is the cry of my heart, and I'm sure it's the cry of yours too - to know His resurrection power in our lives and circumstances. To walk in breakthrough. But in that year of loss and grief, I was reminded of the second half of Paul's statement, the part we prefer to gloss over and pretend isn't there - Paul in the same breath said that he wanted to share in the sufferings of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 he put it this way:
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Think on that for a moment - Paul was making a conscious decision to set before himself Christ in His humility, Christ in His suffering, Christ in His surrender, Christ in His sacrifice, Christ in His obedience; Christ dependent upon and trusting in the Father’s wisdom and plans not just for His life, but for all humanity.
Jesus, wrestled with the path before Him prior to the Cross – He knew what was being asked of Him, the pain and suffering that awaited Him, but He still said ‘not my will but yours’. He could say it because He trusted implicitly in the heart and the wisdom of His Father. If we want to become like Christ – if we want to know His resurrection power, we have to learn to share in His sufferings. That means being surrendered and willing to be obedient even when we would choose a different path or season for ourselves.
Where in your life is God asking you to know Christ crucified, to walk in surrender? Don't be afraid to wrestle there. Don't be afraid of seasons and places of weakness and vulnerability - let them become an opportunity for Him to reveal Himself to you in new and unexpected ways.
It is as we take what we wrestle with and choose surrender; as we choose obedience in the face of suffering, in the midst of our weakness and our fear, that we truly see the power of God at work in our lives and circumstances.
There is no butterfly without the chrysalis. But what is also true, is that the chrysalis must in time give way to the butterfly - just as Christ crucified gave way to Christ resurrected. The very place, that very situation that you know God is asking you to surrender to Him in, is also the very place that He wants you to know His resurrection power.
So let's choose to embrace the chrysalis knowing that it will in time give way to something new and beautiful in our lives.
Live today with purpose,
So last week I shared this post on the On Becoming Esther facebook page...
...and it obviously resonated, because according to facebook stats it was one of my most-read posts ever!
All the scheduling and planning in the world doesn't change the fact that life is messy and often busy, unpredictable and full of interruptions. But here's what I've discovered - real life actually happens in the interruptions. Moments that take our breath away and fill our days with beauty are found in the places where we throw away our schedules and agendas and choose to be fully present; open to what God is wanting to show us.
On the same day that I posted the pic of Lucas enjoying my so-called 'quiet time', I had a to-do list that I probably needed a few days (or weeks!) to actually be able to achieve. Before getting stuck into it, I had paused and written this prayer in my journal:
Jesus, today is very full but I thank You that Your grace is sufficient. Keep me mindful and aware of You and may I not be too busy to show Your compassion, Your kindness, Your gentleness and patience to others. And above all may I be humble and teachable before Your throne. (My paraphrase of Colossians 3:12)
I was saying - God I give you permission to order my day, to interrupt my plans with what you think really matters. Prayers like this are always dangerous - because make no mistake, God will make sure that there are opportunities to put them into action!
So, in between naps and work commitments, Lucas and I made a mad dash to the supermarket to get what we needed for Misha's birthday party that was happening that night. Let me be VERY clear - I wanted to get in and out as fast as I could! But as I was walking through the mall I locked eyes with an elderly gentleman who was smiling at Lucas, and I felt compelled to stop and let him say hello to my little guy. It was only a few minutes and there were no meaningful words exchanged, but as I said goodbye he said something that both humbled and challenged me. His farewell to me was, "Thank you for giving me the gift of your time."
It occurred to me as I reflected back on my day that perhaps the single most important thing that I had done was not to tick off my to-do list, but to let myself be interrupted. That the simple act of pausing and showing kindness had been a gift in someone else's day that could not be measured - and it was a moment that I could have far too easily have missed had I rushed on my way.
Jesus did not allow Himself to get distracted by other people's agendas and timetables, but He did allow Himself to be interrupted.
He let the children come, when the disciples thought He had more important things to do.
He paused to acknowledge and encourage the woman who had been healed by touching His garment, even though He was on His way to a dying child.
He had compassion on the crowds who had gone ahead of Him, and stopped to teach them even though He had intended to find a place of quiet and rest for Him and the disciples.
His life was punctuated with compassion, kindness, gentleness and infinite patience and He invites us to follow in His footsteps.
Interruptions can be places of beauty and blessing. They can be the very moments that God infuses His grace into our lives and the lives of those around us if we will choose to make ourselves available to Him in the messiness and busyness of life.
Give the world the gift of your time today - the gift of you.
Live today with purpose.
It's been an eventful week in the Walker household with our youngest member learning to crawl - he's only 6 months so my pride in this early accomplishment is somewhat tempered by the knowledge of how much busier life is about to become! I have had to become the floor police - educating the girls on what can no longer be left lying around, and surveying each room with fresh eyes as I assess the potential hazards for Lucas. Despite my best efforts there have still been a few bumps and bruises, and moments of getting stuck because furniture towers over him and he doesn't realise there's a way around it! He's living life at ground level, unlike the rest of us who have the advantage of an elevated position.
This new milestone in his life has reminded me that we can also have a tendency to only see our lives from ground level - to get caught up in what our physical senses can see, touch, hear and smell. But we fail to see things from God's perspective and forget that what we experience on the 'ground' is directly affected by what is happening in the spiritual realm - in the Heavenlies.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul talks a lot about the 'Heavenly Realms' telling us that they are:
The place of blessing for us (1:3)
The place where Christ is seated in supreme authority (1:20)
The place where we are seated with Christ (2:6)
The place where the Church is called to reveal the wisdom of God (3:10)
Some pretty amazing truths when you stop to ponder them! But if we fail to live with an awareness of this realm, we won't draw on the fullness of our inheritance or authority in Christ to navigate what happens at ground level - because Paul tells us that the Heavenly realms are also the place where the real battle rages (6:12).
Over the past few weeks I've been sharing with you the message that God has been revealing to me in this season - that Jesus is my Word of Life, that He is God's 'yes' to all that is promised in His Word. I've also shared the importance of learning to trust His timing for that 'yes' to become our reality. But here's the other side to all of that - while there shouldn't be a striving to our waiting, neither should there be a complacency, We cannot afford to be que sera, sera about what God has promised us because yes, Jesus has come to give us abundant life, but there is an enemy whose mission is to do his very best to steal that life from us.
In Daniel 10, Daniel had been given a revelation of events that were yet to come - events that troubled him and so he set himself aside to mourn, to fast and to seek understanding for a period of 21 days. At the end of that period he has another vision and is told this:
Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian Kingdom resisted me twenty-one days...
Think about this for a moment - there was an answer that God wanted to release to Daniel, but there was opposition in the spiritual realms to prevent that answer from coming through at 'ground level' so-to-speak. Imagine if Daniel had not committed himself to that season of prayer, of seeking God for answers and breakthrough - imagine if he had allowed complacency to rob him of his answers! He would have missed Heaven's perspective and insights into what was happening in his world, but he also would have been robbed of the life that God wanted to release to him personally.
Because when that messenger finally got through - and many believe that this was a vision of Jesus Himself - this is what happened:
Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. "Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed," he said. "Peace! Be strong now; be strong."
Daniel was lifted above what he was experiencing at ground level and empowered with peace and strength. God gave him the resources that he needed to keep contending where the real battle was - in the Heavenly realms.
Just like Daniel, we can get discouraged waiting; overwhelmed by the gravity of the situations that we and the people we love face. God wants to release His answers and solutions so that we experience His life flowing within us. He wants to speak His peace and strength over us! That's why Paul urges us in Ephesians 6 to suit up and prayerfully contend, so that the victory that has already been won can become manifest in us and around us. But if we keep choosing to see everything from ground level, our surroundings will tower above us, and things that when seen from God's perspective are possible, will seem insurmountable with our limited perspective.
Let's not let life on the ground make us complacent or distracted - let's set our hearts just like Daniel did to understand from God's perspective. Let's live aware of our elevated position in Christ and draw on God's strength and resources so that we can stand our ground and see answers break through!
Live today with purpose,
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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