i don't know if you can see the little green caterpillar crawling in the broccoli in the picture above.
we sure didn't.
we got much of our vegetables last summer from a farm co-op, which provided us all kinds of fresh, locally grown vegetables in exchange for our financial support of their farm. it was a great arrangement, that put all kinds of good food on our table. we were very blessed by this. but the kids weren't quite as enthused when we discovered that a green caterpillar or two had been cooked, along with the broccoli. they were even more disgusted when i showed them that it wasn't a big deal by eating one right in front of them. they thought that i had ascended to the very peak of mount disgusting, and it was quite the topic of conversation in our home for a few days. the next time they helped shannon to prepare some broccoli for dinner, they closely examined it before cooking it, and sure enough they found another little green caterpillar. i came home from a meeting to find it in a little glass, covered with plastic wrap with little holes so she could breathe, and a note which read, "dear dad, here's a snack for you."
but i didn't eat it. i just let it sit there on the kitchen counter in our juice glass, and by the next morning, we could see that the caterpillar had begun to make a chrysalis. so we watched as our little green joke turned into an even smaller green tent, attached to the side of the glass. we decided to save it, just to see what would happen.
that was august or september.
now it is april, and just last week, shannon was dusting jackson's shelf and looked into the glass to see the little green tent had been evacuated. doing a double-take, she then saw that what had been dormant for some 8 months had now emerged, metamorphisized, and born again. there in the glass was a little butterfly. she seemed disoriented, slow, a little stiff after so much sitting. we wanted to release her outside, but it got really cold last week, and she seemed unwilling to leave her familiar juice cup. so we brought her back inside, gave her some water, and just waited for the weather to warm. during the weekend she seemed to find her wings a bit, and began moving around. then, yesterday, i took her out into the spring sunshine, and she flew away, hopefully to find something to eat.
on its own, it is a great story. from munching on broccoli in our fridge to hiding in a chrysalis in our juice cup. a 250-day journey which culminated in joy and wonder, and freedom. it was a wonderful, wonder-filled moment for our family, to see the power and mystery and resiliency of life. beautiful.
but for me there was a subtext. i released her to freedom on the day i was also obsessing over news coverage out of baltimore, where race, economics, fear and hate were being brewed together into a hostile mix of chaos and rioting. in my broken humanity, i see many sides to the issues, and i feel the heavy burden of so many questions without easy answers. i see the smoke rising from recently-doused fires, seemingly the only thing rising from the broken storefronts, broken windows, broken bottles, broken hearts. i see the smoke; i see the teargas, i see the years of accumulated frustration; i see the consequences of addiction, of prejudice, of inequality. it has been a day of so much brokenness.
and this on the heels of seeing the almost unbearable images of broken earth, broken buildings, and broken families and communities in Nepal, having been rocked by an earthquake.
so much brokenness. and into this broken world, i release one small, fragile, born again butterfly.
and that little broccoli bug became a symbol of my hope. that more can rise from the brokenness than just smoke. more can rise than just cries of desperation. more can rise than the flames of hate and fear. hope can rise from the ashes. growth can rise from the broken ground. with CNN blaring its sensational song, i heard a still-small voice in the tiny beatings of barely-used butterfly wings. i heard a sound of hope. and as our little green, refrigerator-bound caterpillar-turned free-flying butterfly rose into the sky, i offered a prayer, that i, too, would be willing to see the world not only for what it is, but for what it might be. i asked the Maker to remold my callused heart into one that beats with wild expectation and rekindled hope, one that is willing to build a chrysalis wherever it finds itself. i prayed that from the brokenness would come new birth, and more would rise than smoke. and i felt compelled to be a part of it, in any way i can.
lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.
one small green caterpillar.