The Story Behind the Butterfly Tattoo

I rested my elbows on the side of the pool, with my hands folded just under my chin, letting my body float to the surface of the water. My husband and I talked about this and that. Then he nodded towards the butterfly on my shoulder and asked "do you ever regret getting your tattoo?" 

"No, not really," I replied, glancing at the different tattoos on display on the pool deck.

"Why did you get it?" he asked. 

"I got it to help me remember that I am a new creation." 

he prodded, needing more information.

The idea of flying had become symbolic for me. I wanted to fly. But for a long time I did not think I could. Inside of me I knew I was meant to soar on wings like eagles, but I felt grounded.

Although I had put my hope in the Lord, I didn't feel my strength renewed. I didn't feel like I could run and not grow weary. In fact, I
had run and I'd grown very weary. I was losing strength, battle scarred. There was a time when I wanted to be "on the cutting edge" for God. Now I didn't want to be on the dull edge. I wanted to be as far away from the edge as possible.

I took matters into my own hands. If God wasn't going to help me, I decided, then I was going to help myself. And I did. Except that I didn't feel better. Not really.

Fortunately God intervened and we were forced to focus on some things in our marriage that we had not addressed for sixteen years. First, though, the marriage counselor told us that we needed to deal with our individual issues before we could successfully address our marriage. 

During that time of individual counselling, I got to know myself. I had just turned 39 years old, but didn't know who I was. Until then I had not spent much time thinking about what I really felt and thought and dreamed of. I had not spent much time loving who God made me to be. 

I knew who I thought I should be. Who I thought everyone else wanted me to be. And I tried to be that for them. To be accepted. To be acceptable. To be loved.

I find it ironic that although I have never cared about the crowd's acceptance, I desperately wanted the acceptance of a close friend. Of my parents. Of my husband. 

Yet even when they accepted me, I did not accept their acceptance. I realize now that didn't understand it. Maybe for the same reason that I never really understood God's acceptance of me. I thought I had to be better (always ever better) to be really acceptable to God, or anyone else. Even though I could tell others of God's love for them, I struggled with understanding God's love and mercy and grace towards me

I could comprehend consequences, though. They were neat and linear. Mercy makes no sense. Grace is mind boggling. I never really could wrap my mind around either concept until I received mercy and grace and forgiveness from my husband.

During that time my counselor had a lot of book recommendations for me. It felt like I was in college again, I was learning so much. One of the books she recommended was While the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. As I read it, I really related to the the transformation of  the caterpillar to butterfly. 

In the shame of my sin, I felt like an ugly caterpillar. This process of counselling we were going through with it's three phases seemed like a cocoon. On the outside it might not have looked ugly, but on the inside a miraculous transformation was taking place. I was (we were) becoming something new, something beautiful. I was learning that I could fly. 

More importantly, I was learning that I couldn't look to anyone else to make me fly. I couldn't even look to myself. No wonder I was weary! It is God alone who makes me to fly on wings like eagles. 

On wings like a butterfly.

I turned around to face him, let my hands skim over the surface of the water as I thought about my answer. 

"I got it to help me remember that I am not an ugly caterpillar anymore, lost in sin. I am forgiven. The past is gone, the new has come. Like a butterfly is never again a caterpillar. I am not what I once was," I replied. "God has made me beautiful, He's teaching me to fly. I wanted a reminder of that." 


Andrea Lei said...

Love your honesty and transparency. So refreshing! I needed to read this. Bless you my friend.

Anne said...

Thanks, Andrea. I'm glad it came at just the right time for you.

Tamera Beardsley said...

~ so beautifully written ~ thanks for your honest sharing ~

gayle t. said...

Oh my goodness! I have a butterfly tattoo too!!! I should write about mine some day. Love this post. :) You're such a beautiful soul.

Gayle | Grace for Gayle


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