How are you? It’s been a while since we’ve connected on here.
Perhaps these will be words that I should have written to you in January, but if I had done that, they would be words that came from a contrived, pressured place rather than an authentic, grace-filled one.
Sitting here, writing this, life is somewhat unrecognisable. I’m sitting in my own home, at my dining room table. Both my children are at school. There is a car sitting on the drive way that belongs to me and after writing this, I will be sitting with a notebook to plan out my working week, for the new job that came into my life. Things have gloriously changed, but you should know that the things I have just shared are only the highlight reel. The process of how that change came about and what I had to walk through to arrive where I am now didn’t feel anything like a highlight. In fact, it felt more like the dissolving of everything I had known.
There has been so much change—being forced to move country, feeling as though the vision we were nurturing was suddenly aborted, changing jobs, starting a business, experiencing loss—relational and physical, both kids starting school, financial uncertainty, going through health problems, accompanied by several heartbreaking crises in our friendship circles—these were major demands being put on our emotional resources and in the midst of it all, we sold my family home of 32 years. So, in a time that seem steeped in uncertainty I had to face saying goodbye to the place which had been my safe place and constant in all of the ups and downs. Even when I had moved out, that home was still there. Even when my family had collapsed, that house was still there. It was a haven and a safe house for so many. My brother and I used to call it “the centre.” And saying goodbye unearthed a level of grief and disappointment that I didn’t feel able to endure.
Things got very dark for me for a while. I wanted to walk away from everything and everyone—including God. I felt chewed up and spat out by life and I was tired. I felt like everything had been stolen from me. Somewhere in the middle of this, the song New Wine by Hillsong Worship came out and it seemed to be the one my heart had been waiting for: ‘In the crushing and the pressing, You are making new wine. In the soil I now surrender, you are breaking new ground.” The lyrics? Profound. The melody? Exquisite. The process? Agony.
Have you ever been there? Feeling as though you are in a never-ending period of transition with no end in sight? I found myself wrestling with this thought—where will I be at the end of all this? I still want to be ‘me’ and recognise who that is. Darkness and silence are sifters: they reveal to you who you are and who you’re not, what you believe and what you don’t. Somehow, you know the only fruitful way through it, is to do just that—go through it. Not try and side step it, or go around it, or duck out of it…but walk through it, even if you feel like you are being crushed.
The weekend that we moved house, a dear friend said to me: “You can look at all of this in two ways. Either as the end of everything. Or, as the beginning of a new era. I believe this is not the end of everything, but it is the closing of a book and the beginning of a new era. It’s the rocket shedding the necessary weight and really flying” Even though at the time those words felt unbelievable and even stung a little, my friend was right. Something new was unfolding and what I would end up finding would be good.
You see, as a result of all of this, for the first time in a long time, I was able to ask myself this question: “What do I want?” For at least the last few years, that question had seemed to me like a luxury that I couldn’t afford, because circumstances meant I had to deal with the things that were being thrown in front of me and just do the best I could with what I had. You name it—last year had it all. By the end my soul and body felt battered. So even when things began changing for the better, I was almost numb to it—or at best, frightened of it. Moving into my own home was wonderful, but I didn’t know what to do with it. Having our own car was a blessing, but I felt guilty every time I used it. I realised that I would drop my children to school, and then go home and wait…wait for something to happen that I would need to deal with, wait for a fire to spark that I would need to put out. But there was nothing.
It was at that time, I realised that I didn’t feel as though I had the permission or the agency to plan and craft my own life. In fact, I was a little scared to try for fear that it wouldn’t work out. Just like so many things in the recent past hadn’t. The week before my birthday, in December, I was offered a new job. I didn’t go looking for it; it found me. With life just beginning to feel settled, I was reluctant to invite change into my life again. As I sought counsel from those closest to me, the question that came back to me was this: “What do you want?” There was no pressure, no expectation—just love and support for me to make a decision for me. Not from a place obligation, but a place of freedom. And so, I said “yes.” That ‘yes’ was like electric paddles on my chest and from that moment, a revelation started taking shape.
I stumbled across this article that summarised my process for me in a perfect analogy:
“How does a caterpillar rearrange itself into a butterfly? What happens inside a chrysalis or cocoon?
First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out. But the contents of the pupa are not entirely an amorphous mess. Certain highly organised groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Before hatching, when a caterpillar is still developing inside its egg, it grows an imaginal disc for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly or moth—discs for its eyes, for its wings, its legs and so on. In some species, these imaginal discs remain dormant throughout the caterpillar's life; in other species, the discs begin to take the shape of adult body parts even before the caterpillar forms a chrysalis or cocoon. Some caterpillars walk around with tiny rudimentary wings tucked inside their bodies, though you would never know it by looking at them. Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth.”
Isn’t that incredible?! The caterpillar digests itself! It dissolves and digests who it once was. Only the imaginal discs survive. The imaginal discs being the building blocks for the the adult body it’s seeking to build. Not only this, but the imaginal discs use the substance of the dissolved former being to fuel the process of building the new form. I don’t know about you, but that speaks to me! It speaks loudly to me about where I’ve been and where I find myself now.
My friend, change is uncomfortable—even positive change. However, there is a difference between adjustment or course correction and absolute metamorphosis. So often we think of change or transition in such infantile terms. Just think of what a caterpillar goes through in order to emerge a butterfly. However, when children draw the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, what they tend to do is keep drawing the exact same caterpillar and just draw wings on it. Sometimes we approach our own metamorphosis like that. We want the caterpillar of our lives/hearts/minds to remain exactly the same and for life to just come and deliver us some pretty wings. But that is nothing like what happens—with the butterfly nor with life. Transformation is never easy but keeping true to who you are means you need to know who that is in the first place. Then you can digest the rest with full confidence that your core identity or imaginal discs, will remain intact. I believe often God is saying He is not coming to put nice wings on the caterpillar of our old ways, thinking, systems and structures. He is going to do a whole new thing. Metamorphosis is gruelling and gruesome: it takes place in a dark and hidden place.
But…there is hope. You see, I thought I was dead and buried. I wasn’t. I was just wrapped up in a cocoon. Was everything dissolving? No, not everything. My imaginal discs, my core identity, survived. Do I look different now? Yes. Feel different? Yes. Operate differently? Yes. But is it better or worse? So much better.
Reflecting on all of this I see that it wasn’t one big thing that happened, but the cumulative weight of all of these things formed just the right amount of pressure to kick start a period of metamorphosis that I never anticipated. What I couldn’t see for the longest time, was that it wasn’t the end; in fact, it was a beginning.
So, my friend, if you are there, I’m hoping that these words will provide comfort and hope for your own process. If you can, lay down faster than I did, trust assuredly that you are journeying toward something good. Majesty is very much present and working. Also, be careful to discern the difference between isolating yourself and strategically hiding yourself, in a transparent blanket of solitude underpinned by a bedrock of prayer, protection and people who love you. I am getting used to my new normal—stability, choice, freedom to be. And it is wonderful.
As always please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts and questions. Until next time, I’m sending you so much love.