On Butterfly Wings

Four-year-old Ariel with hair the color of brown sugar and deep, sapphire-blue eyes peers intently at a yellow butterfly sitting at the center of a white Shasta daisy. It’s one of those early June days that memories are made of. A soft breeze stirs and lifts the little girl’s hair in a swirling poof, in harmony with the puffy, white clouds that are scattered across the vastness of sky. These clouds are the remnants of yesterday’s rain storm and the reason why so many Robins are about getting their early-worm. The trees and all of the plants that inhabit the garden, wear a shimmering coat of new-green. Gardens are hopeful places in late spring and early summer. This is the season when gardeners dream big, with super strength ambition to achieve their plans in the growing season ahead. Ariel is also, situated at the beginning of her growing to become season but at four, she is content to focus on a yellow butterfly and is unaware of the importance of early childhood.

Yellow butterflies driven by the brevity of their lives don’t light in one place long and Ariel’s butterfly vanishes long before she is finished with her examination. Tears flood and glitter in those sapphire eyes as she vainly looks for her golden treasure. It only took a moment for her to fall in love and now, her love has flown away! A cheerful burst of musical notes distracts her broken heart and draws her attention to the Robins. There being far too many of them for a four-year-old girl to count, Ariel cries, “Bazillion! A bazillion birdies! Mine!” and she throws herself into the midst of them. It is only, nine o’clock in the morning and already, Ariel has learned two hard, life lessons. The birds not recognizing her ownership of them, do as the butterfly, lift themselves upon strong wings, and fly away. “Birdies gone…” is the dejected response of Ariel. Her tiny shoulders slump and she plops herself on the bench beneath the Maple tree. What’s the use of butterflies and birds if she can’t keep them, hold them, and play with them? Little Ariel’s heart hurts with her first cognizant experience of frustration in an unmet desire. On this memorable morning in June, a yellow butterfly and the Robins became a template for disappointments that would characterize Ariel’s life.

As Ariel grows, her defining characteristic is the pursuit of the impossible to obtain. As if her ability to dream rode to the heavens, on the wings of that yellow butterfly and the Robins who evaded her ownership, on that early summer morning. Ariel’s dreams, always being much bigger than any perceptible means at her disposal to obtain them, makes them seem ridiculous to her family and friends; but owning those dreams is the driving ambition that keeps her breathing. Without those dreams, she is likely to plop herself down beneath the nearest tree and never get up again. Ariel’s person is wound around dreams of fame, fortune, and legacy. In her mind, if she can’t become something recognized by the world as important, then that will prove what she fears most, that she is nothing.

Ariel’s ambition takes her many places that most people never visit. Some of them wonderful and some terrible; they all culminate in frustration, a repeat of that now, long ago, day when she was only, four. At twenty-five, Ariel is a beauty, with a great job, and life most young women would be content to enjoy. However, Ariel can only see herself and her life as a failure. She won’t be happy until she’s running the company she now, works for. Her desire for material rewards isn’t so much materialism as it is proving her self-worth. Her looks, her home, her car, her status at work and in life, must meet a certain high standard before she’ll be satisfied. What she doesn’t know about herself now, at twenty-five is that she will never be satisfied through worldly, success. The empty core she fills with dreams and the frenetic pursuit of achieving them will never be satisfied by any level of success she manages to reach. If she became Queen of the World, she would still feel frustrated and empty inside.

Ariel grew older but not wiser. Her achievement of becoming CEO before the age of thirty-five thrilled her in the moment but like all her earthly goals, ended in vanishing achievement; as life is never about a happy ending but on a continuum, where goals are met and quickly fade. Ariel never married because she gave everything she had within her to work. Now at the top, all she feels is the bitterness of disappointment and the let-down of past success, with no new horizon in sight. The empty core is now, a black hole sucking in the shell of Ariel, the persona she built around her dreams of success. She feels as if she’s imploding, collapsing, as if she is in a process of self-cannibalization. Shaken, she decides to take some time off, picks up her phone and dials the number of the best luxury hotel in town. Assured of a reservation, she grabs her coat and purse, tells her secretary what to do in the event of an emergency, and makes her way out the door. In a fog of broken thoughts and emotions, she finds herself in a cab, sitting in front of her hotel. Relieved to have made it to the perceived safety of her sanctuary, Ariel stuffs some bills in the cabby’s hand and steps out onto the sidewalk. She stares at the entrance for a few moments and feels so surreal as to be on the verge of a fugue state.

Alone in her room and having ordered two bottles of fine wine, Ariel strips to her slip, trying to get comfortable and relax. Sipping the wine she hopes will numb the pain and somehow negate her feelings of being on the edge of insanity, she absent mindedly opens the drawer on the nightstand. Yes, there it is, one of those Bibles that are always in hotel rooms. She’d never bothered to read one, she never had time for religion, and really didn’t understand religious people. What the heck? She didn’t have anything else to do. Ariel opened the Bible at random and began reading. As she read Matthew Chapter Five, it seemed that Jesus was speaking directly, to her. What stuck her was the fact that what Jesus listed as blessings were so different from the things she’d spent her life chasing. She felt foolish in the sudden realization that she’s wound her identity around nothing of lasting value. Just like the yellow butterfly and the Robins she’s wanted so badly, to hold and own as a little girl; the blessings she chases after evade her, just as she is about to put her hands on them. Tears fill her eyes and she reads again: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The flood gates of sorrow open upon Ariel’s acceptance of these ancient words that speak directly to her heart and the vacuum there that seeks her destruction. Not knowing exactly what to say, she falls on her knees, sobbing, “God save me! Please give me this blessing! Oh, I need your comfort! I’m so sorry for spending the life you gave me chasing the wind! Please forgive me and give me another chance!” Immediately, the aching hole in Ariel’s heart fills with a warming presence and she knows she’s been heard. Ariel is no longer lonely and falls asleep resting in the greatest comfort she’s ever known.

Ariel lives a different kind of life now and strangely, on many days, she finds herself enjoying the garden, just as she did when she was little. Her life is centered on Christ and she is involved in a process not unlike the process a caterpillar undergoes to become a yellow butterfly. Ariel is embarked upon a journey of becoming by faith. She no longer pursues status or fortune and fully, understands that her identity was never in material achievement. Her true identity is in Christ and she uses her money to further His work and help others in need. Ariel found joy and self-acceptance by coming to understand God’s love for her and His purpose for her life in Jesus. By dying to her selfish ambitions and instead, living to serve God’s greater purpose, Ariel finds the kind of life that satisfies her deep, inner need. No longer living to achieve plans of her own contrivance, Ariel looked forward to each day as a surprise in her pilgrimage toward a better world. Ariel is no longer frustrated by the endless pursuit of empty ambitions that never deliver what they promise. Ariel doesn’t chase big, illusive dreams but quietly, waits as God brings beautiful birds and golden butterflies to rest at her feet. Ariel, the beautiful girl who sacrificed everything to obtain her goals of grandeur, finds herself fully obtained by God. She didn’t become Queen of the World but she is more than content as a daughter of the King.


25 thoughts on “On Butterfly Wings

  1. Sometimes, in the pursuit of life’s temporary dreams, we throw away the dreams that God has ordained for us and a lot of times find ourselves burnt from these experiences. I am glad that Arial got the opportunity for true blessings. Great story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a powerful story! So real…and so many like her! I was drawn into this story in the beginning with her age being the same as one of my daughters…then also as she grows up with the realism of sinful idolatry of career, etc. Excellent!

    Liked by 2 people

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