God often speaks to me through His creation—animals, pets, nature. It was a lovely day in the Spring or Summer of 2002 when God used a butterfly as His messenger. But let me give you some background first.
In my thirties, I found myself being asked to resign or be fired from a job I literally hated. The decision to leave was easy by this point. I resigned, but not before the experience of being in a toxic workplace took its toll on me. I was different.
It had changed me. So much so that without knowing what I had just experienced that day, my mother sat across from me at a restaurant and kept looking at me and asking what’s wrong.
I didn’t tell her. Finally, she said, “Alicia, I know you’re my daughter, but I’m sitting here looking at you and I don’t even recognize you. You don’t look like yourself.” Ah, that got me. I still get emotional when I think about it all these years later. I allowed a job and the people at that job to rob me of my identity.
I was angry for a host of reasons. Somewhere between all the emotions I was feeling I fell into what I now know was depression. All I did was sleep. I literally slept through spring and had missed the flowers and trees blooming and that made me angry.
Eventually, I was tired of being cooped up in the house, so I took my dog, Rusty, for a walk. The sun felt good on my skin, and the fresh air rejuvenated me. About a block and a half into our walk, I was passing the subdivision’s model home. The yard was beautifully landscaped. The flowers had bloomed and were at the height of their glory. A protective netting had been placed over the flowers to keep deer from eating them. As I admired the flowers in the bed nearest me, there was a movement that caught my eye. I saw a beautiful black butterfly trapped under the netting, looking for a way out.
I watched as the butterfly flew up as far as it could and then dropped back down—up and back down, up and back down. I lifted the netting to free it, but it didn’t fly away. It just kept going up and back down as though it was still trapped. This continued until the butterfly rested in the street just off the curb. Concerned that a car might run it over, I started to pick it up to move it out of harm’s way, but I had an overwhelming sense that I was to leave it there. I struggled with the decision, but I couldn’t deny the overpowering veto. So, I left it there.
I continued my walk, all the while wanting to go back to rescue the butterfly. The thought of it getting run over gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. As Rusty and I headed back to the house, I was afraid I would find the butterfly squashed in the road. When we got to the place where the butterfly had landed, it was nowhere to be found. It had, I surmised, finally realized it was free and flew off.
Relieved, I asked God what that was all about. Here’s what He impressed upon my heart:
“So many of My people remain in bondage when I have already set them free. They don’t realize they’re free and, therefore, continue to live in their old patterns of going up and back down, up and back down. But like that butterfly, they need to pause, realize they are free, gather up their strength, and then get back to being who I created them to be.”