A butterfly’s struggle to free itself from it’s cocooning chrysalis is difficult to watch. It’s easy to assume that a creature so small and delicate needs help against this ‘unnecessary’ struggle. We can be quick to reach for our well-meaning tweezers to help. However it is through this wrestle for freedom that essential chemicals are released and circulated throughout the butterfly’s small frame, chemicals which strengthen and prepare it for future health and flight. Rescuing a butterfly from the struggle would actually cause it harm. Providing a safe place for the struggle to take place is the only help we have to offer.
Jamaica has the most beautiful butterflies. Like the Malachite butterfly, the Jamaican Admiral butterfly, the Zebra butterfly and my favourite, the Swallowtail butterfly.
Then there are other butterflies in Jamaica, children that should be (like butterflies) flying, soaring and floating on the breeze, but they are not. Life has bound their wings in thick dark cocooning fear, wrapping them up in cocoons of neglect, violence, molestation and anger.
How I want to fix it, save them, pry open the cocoon of their fears with well meaning tweezers and wrap them in love and peace and protection. But I cannot. I wasn’t there when fists fell against flesh, when wings got crushed by the whispering dark, when neglect set in. I wasn’t there when they screamed in pain and curled up in fear… but their heavenly Father was. It could look hopeless for a broken butterfly, the kind of hopeless and helplessness when darkness wins and small is too weak to fight back.
But God, in a conspiracy with the light has placed within these butterflies the ability to heal. Within their core, beneath the scars lies the secret miracle of play; The secret spiritual-super-power of childhood. Darkness may have touched their past but it’s strangle-hold over their future can be lifted… by a quiet safe place and a play-mat full of toys.
So we set out coloured play mats all around, with toys and crayons, with peg dolls and water pistols, crocodiles and baby dolls made from socks.
And then furrow browed and wary- eyed they come, quietly at first. And in the toys they find the tools to speak, the unspoken stories of their experiences, fears and scars.
And the playmat becomes this island, this island in the ocean where they drop messages in bottles into the water all around. And as the messages float by me (and our other listening adults) we see them, hear them. And as these messages are seen and heard and are whispered gently back to them these butterflies they know, they feel, they are not stranded all alone on this island in the dark. And on the strength of this assurance they begin; They set about the business of building their own life rafts, they set about the business of rescuing themselves. Because God, in a conspiracy with the light has placed within their hearts the ability to heal. They don’t need my tweezers to pry open their cocoon. They don’t need a hero to swoop in and save them. The hero is within them. They just need to know they are not alone in the dark.
These butterflies become heroes facing down dragons, rescuing babies, containing crocodiles, earnestly setting the world to rights for a moment, for this moment. This moment that can release future moments, releasing their wings for flight. Though small they have everything they need, because size is not the measure of the heart. Small can be brave when safety surrounds them, and God, in a conspiracy with the light, has placed within these butterflies the ability to heal.
The smallest butterfly, she takes the toy crocodile, the fiercest scary thing in her life and she wraps it all up with glue and tape, with the whole glue stick she sticks it up and the roll of tape wound round and round, that crocodile is going down! But when she’s dragged it down to it’s demise, vanquished by glue and tape and play, her small hands can’t break the tape. But Small can be strong when safety surrounds her. She struggles and strains to sever that tape. With teeth and hands and then feet and legs she stretches and strains until ‘snap’ she wins. The tape is torn and that crocodile is vanquished. Scary overpowered by Small. And strength is rising within a small heart and a chain can be heard in the heavens breaking, and one small part of one small wing releases to the light.
And another butterfly, the Malachite butterfly, cocooned in chronic neglect, she projects onto her play-mat a beautiful loving household and she tidies, orders and makes it all perfect, the perfect home all safe and warm, all wrapped in care. And she cooks play dough food for her beloved doll and makes sure her baby has everything she needs and this baby in her heart is loved and seen and neglect is nowhere, need is nowhere. She pours into this baby doll all the love she needs, her birthright as a child of God, a birthright denied by neglect and want. And again a chain can be heard in the heavens breaking, and a small wing stretches towards the light, flexing itself ready for flight.
And the Swallowtail butterfly, she is beaten the day before she comes. When she arrives she blows up balloons and these balloons become people wielding power, power inflicted over her. And she fills the water gun with her anger and faces down the overpowering. And as the water rushes down the balloons and those balloons feel her wrath and pain, her anger releases, washing down, washing out of her heart and down into a puddle on the ground. A chain rattles and breaks in the heavens and a small part of one small wing releases to the light.
And then the next day this same butterfly returns again filling up the water gun full, not now with anger but with grief. Then she turns it on herself at point blank range and shoots herself, her eyes, her face, again and again and again and again. And tears run down in rivers wrenching mingling violence and despair and the grief is silently hollering, shouting, ‘See!’. And as it is expressed it is expelled, as it is acknowledged it is released. The message in the bottle is read and heard and another chain breaks and a small corner of another small wing releases to the light.
And then the next day again she comes, released from anger and grief for now. She comes to this safe island play-mat, her island in a chaotic world… and she plays. She plays like a child is born to play, she laughs and giggles and wriggles out of her cocoon because small can fly when safety surrounds her. And wings unfurl in beautiful cheeky, childhood play, basking in the light.
And another tiny butterfly comes all wrapped up by the darkest threads, threads too fresh and pitch in black, a crushing cocoon too dark for hope. But God, in a conspiracy with the light has placed within her (even her, still flinching from the wound) the ability to heal.
And it is work and it is hard, it is grunting strain, it is furrowed brow and it is not a game, this play, this pealing back the scab to heal. It is a re-playing and an out-playing, an un-doing and a re-writing. A breaking the power of the dark with tiny fists all clenched up tight, strengthened, encouraged by the light. Fight! She creates a boundary around her heart with with popsicle sticks and glue and tape and with all the strength in her tiny hands that boundary stands. A wall against the memory of dark, a testimony to her fighting heart.
And she tapes the baby doll all bound up with sticky tape all strangle wrapped and over the baby’s mouth a band-aid spreads. How can the baby cry when her mouth is taped shut with pain? And the message in the bottle is read and heard, by another heart and heaven’s too and a chain moves slightly to undo… in time.
A battle is being fought on this play-mat, a battle only this child can win, strengthened by the light within. She is a warrior all in light, a soldier challenging the dark, a knight in armour facing fears, tearing down strongholds, wrestling despair. And she, one-day will win, because God, in a conspiracy with the light has placed within her heart the ability to heal. She doesn’t need tweezers to pry open her cocoon. She doesn’t need a hero to swoop in and save her. The hero is within her. She just needs to know she’s not alone in the dark.
Jamaica has the most beautiful butterflies, and God, in a conspiracy with the light has placed within their hearts the ability to heal…