She was just two and a half when she memorized her first bible verse. It wasn't intentional. She had this favorite book about a caterpillar. You know, the very hungry one.
And parenting was still new when she was two and I didn't know how to "train up a child" (I still don't ...!) but it just seemed natural to recite it with her ... the way the old goes and the new comes. And so we did. After that caterpillar munched its way through one piece of chocolate cake, one salami, and one slice of cherry pie, it wrapped its old self up for the waiting.
Each time we turned the very last page we held the book up overhead, opened and closed its pages and pretended to make that "beautiful butterfly" fly. She would articulate it just right and cheer the last part as if there were an exclamation point. Maybe there should have been.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come(!)."
For four years now, she has recited her "butterfly verse" at the end of that story and at the end of (nearly) every day.
This was accidental parenting too, us not knowing then how it would pave the way for hearts just before sleep. Night time is an ideal time, after a day of mess-ups and missteps, to talk about needing a little new life pumped into day-drained vessels. They seem to do their best thinking after the lights go out. I know I do. And by days end, which one of us couldn't use a little transformation?
Who doesn't need reminding that we are new and we are being made new all the time ... simultaneously soaring while shedding this mess-up prone life-skin -- one real, hard day at a time.
Each Monday here, we begin school the same way. I hand my girl a new character card and we learn the sentence together, then practice the lines from weeks before. "I don't quit, I persevere."
"I am a wise child, so I work hard." This week she asked why the card included a butterfly. We read the words, "God can make me new."
I smiled, told her I bet she already knew the answer.
So we read books about butterflies and she drew their life stages. She didn't say. We painted butterflies on canvas and she ran after moths with cupped hands in the yard. But she didn't say. So, when she let that back door slam on her way in from outside, I shushed her loud, nearly yelled (always ironic) that "Ben is sleeping!" the way I tend to do. And then this ...
"I figured it out, Mama! It's just like my butterfly verse ... God does metamorphosis in us! That's why there's a butterfly on my card. "
And four years later, her "butterfly verse" came into full color and she was animated and jumpy with the knowing. Later, she dug a bit deeper. "Mama, can God make anyone new? I mean ... like anyone?"
I knew what she was really asking. And she wanted to know what we all desperately need to remember. Is there anyone who is too far gone, too far out, too far away? Ah, and this girl of six doesn't know her own heritage, the oldest born to two prodigal parents.
I smiled. "Yes, He can make anyone new." I told her how we don't ever stop loving, hoping with, anyone. "Not ever, ok? Because God can always change a heart."
I say it loud and clear, tender but emphatic. I say it with authority because I've lived it. I've seen it. And I've listened, jaw-dropped to the floor, to humble men and women who speak of the old, but only display the new. Yes, this is one I'll die on -- for myself and for the one out there who appears unchangeable, for the one who believes too much time has lapsed, for the one who has been given up on.
Because really? What good is Easter then?
What are we remembering? Hoping for? Celebrating? Why all the praise that will come on Sunday morning? Why bother with any of it if not for the promise of the new?
Later that day I mess up big and I yell and I have to apologize to my kids. For a minute my couch with green marker streaks trumps a kid's heart and I crush it good. I send everyone outside with wide eyes while I scrub and the marker comes out but I'm all messed up.
I tear up while I apologize and I try to make sure they know I value them more than a piece of furniture. But my oldest girl has internalized this butterfly truth and she leans in, pats my back the way I do hers. "It's ok Mama. We all need a little metamorphosis everyday."
She winks and I'm stunned because what do you do when your kindergarten kid ministers to your soul? I tell her I guess I'm just a stinky caterpillar today and my middle gal just thinks this is hilarious.
On Palm Sunday we entered into Holy Week and began this final leg of the Easter journey. I've failed miserably in writing about any of it here-- but God has met us in these past forty days. Beautiful things, rich and lovely, are transpiring.
To begin the week, we planted a tiny garden in a silver tub. We chose plants still green with the knowing that they will bloom ... soon. We bought parsley for the sole purpose of attracting butterflies and Cara has been toting a self-made caterpillar habitat, complete with caterpillar, for three days now. Our house is full of anticipation and the watching for signs of new.
And I just keep laughing, thinking about how badly I need some metamorphosis, and how often. I think on how we shed just a bit more of this everyday skin all the time -- everyday becoming a bit less like a caterpillar and a bit more like a winged beauty (2 Cor. 4:16).
This is the hope we have and the promise He made good on. "God can make me new."
Friends, today is Holy (Maundy) Thursday. If you missed Lent, missed Palm Sunday ... perhaps begin today? Perhaps read through Mark 14 and 15 and begin to walk this road a bit, before Easter sneaks up?
Because everything changed, and became new, at the cross.
Peace and grace today.