My nine year old son said it and it gripped me. I couldn't let it go.
He came home from the school the other day with a gift that he had made for Mother’s Day. It was a really sweet gift. It was a small canvas painted orange because it is my favorite color. On the canvas were several butterflies that were punched out from a hole punch. It was punched from paper that Sean had also painted. It was a beautiful piece of artwork that I am so excited to display on my walls.
Then he said it.
He pointed to a butterfly that had blunt wings instead of pointed and rounded wings like all the others. He said sweetly, “Mom, I had to hide this from the teacher because if she would have seen it, she would have had me throw it away because it’s not like the others. But Mom, I didn’t want to throw it away because it’s a rare butterfly. I knew you would see that too - and we don’t throw away rare butterflies!” he exclaimed, his eyes shining proudly.
I looked at him. He got it. Life - in a nutshell - he got it. Don’t throw away the butterfly because it doesn’t look exactly like all the others.
He wasn’t ashamed of it. He didn’t hide the blunt wings under another butterfly. He didn’t put it on the bottom out of the way. He put it right on the top in the center! It was a treasured butterfly to him.
It reminded me of a workshop I went to the other day. I came away from that evening with a thought from the main speaker that captured my heart. So many times we look at certain students and we wonder how we can fix them. In actuality we don’t need to fix them at all. We need to see the beauty, the uniqueness and the rarity of their beautiful souls. We need to grab ahold of their strengths and capitalize on them. Our goal isn’t to change them, to make them look like all the other humans - like cookie cutter people. Our job is to spur them on into greatness. It’s not about fixing them. It’s completely about accepting them right where they are at. It’s about seeing their strength and their uniqueness. It’s not about clipping their wings so that they match the others. We don’t need to match. We need to live our own story and let others live theirs. We need to let them be great in their own greatness and not measure greatness by our standard.
We were never meant to be a clone or a replica of the person next to us. We were meant to be deeply and completely ourselves - wildly and weirdly different and unique and messy and perfect in every way. We are all broken in some way or another - all of us show our brokenness in different ways. All of us are accepted by the Beloved - by Jesus. Jesus didn't tell us that he would love us when we healed ourselves. He told us that he would love us no matter what and it's in the love that the healing comes.
Those of us who work with people on a regular basis - let's not look at the ones with different wings and wonder how we can hide them or change them. Let our questions be different. Let's ask ourselves how we can love them where they are at, believe in them genuinely and help them to live and tell their story well. Let them have a voice. Let them see their importance in their world. We need their voice. We need their story and their magic.
I once heard someone say that they hated potential. I remember it clearly - I snickered and wholeheartedly agreed. I understand what he meant - that sometimes potential was another way of saying that they just weren't measuring up to what they could be doing in life; that they were sitting on their butts while they could be leading something great; or being someone grande. He was really talking about potential wasted. I got it then. But I don't agree anymore. I love potential. Because potential means greatness. Potential means hope. It is our job as caregivers, as nurturers, to tap into that potential. To lead them to the vast wide field of potential and let them see with their own eyes what they can do and what they can accomplish with their own voice; it's our job to give them hope. It's not our job to lead them to the "good little boy" next to them and ask them to be like him. The picture is so much bigger; so much wider than that.
Pastors, Teachers, Parents, don't try to fix the butterflies that don't have wings like the others.
Don’t try to change them.
Don’t try to make them conform.
Do love them.
Do be proud of them.
Do see their beauty.
Please, please, please don’t throw away the butterfly with the straight wings.
We need it’s beauty.