Aren’t butterflies pretty? They float lightly through the air, flitting from flower to flower, showing off their colorfully detailed wings to anyone who will take the time to watch. They make flying look effortless and easy!
Now, contrast that with a stroke in swimming called “The Butterfly”. It’s a beautiful stroke when a strong swimmer is using it. Keeping both legs together and pumping hard, flinging both arms into the water simultaneously, then throwing both arms back over your head and into the water again…the stroke is anything but effortless and easy! I will never forget the time when we were cheering on a fellow swimmer during our high school swimming meet. He was racing the 100 yard butterfly and was doing quite well. I think he might have even been in first place. Suddenly, only about three feet from the wall, he quit moving. His legs were moving, his arms were moving, but he had stopped moving forward! He flailed there for what seemed like forever, as two or three other swimmers touched the wall and finished the race. Most of our team raced to the edge of the pool and we yelled our encouragement to our teammate. Totally exhausted, he was moving, but there was no power in his stroke anymore. Inch by inch he moved ahead until he finally touched the wall and he could rest.
I still think of that race sometimes. So many of us try to go through life on our own power. Just like a strong swimmer doing the butterfly, we might look pretty good when we are feeling good and have everything going our way. Sooner or later, though, all of us will reach the point where we are exhausted and can’t keep moving anymore. Worse yet, many of us will keep moving, but we’ll just wear ourselves out more with the effort and we won’t move forward at all.
There are thousands of thoughts that can result in this meaningless, exhausting thrashing that gets us nowhere. Here are just a few to consider: I can’t do this anymore! (weak splash) I’m so tired! (splash, splash) Why do I have to do everything around here? (angry splash) I got angry again…I’ll never change (splutter, gasp) I think I’m going crazy! (splash)
Do you see how useless it is to focus on thoughts like these? Sure, we can’t help from thinking them at times, but they are all warning signs for us to heed. Maybe we’ve been in the pool too long and we need to dry off and take a break before the next race. (Yes, I’m telling you you’re all wet!) Maybe we need to switch strokes and take it easy for a lap or so, or just do the back float until we get our strength back.
The most important thing to remember is that the real power in our stroke comes from God. If we’re trying to live life using our own strength, sooner or later we’ll come to that sickening point where we can see the wall but we have no strength left and no matter how hard we try we just can’t get there! If you find yourself entertaining thoughts like I listed above, it’s time to confess that you’re trying to do it on your own. It’s time to get your focus back on the Lord and just do what He is asking you to do.
The race is different for every “swimmer”, but it’s always exciting. God may tell you to rest for a while, or He may urge you to keep swimming in spite of your exhaustion. He may ask you to swim the butterfly through life, while he lets your sister or your neighbor do the back stroke most of the way. Don’t look around at what other people are doing. Dear sister swimmers, make sure you continue to trust and obey. As we do that, we will learn to live freely and lightly, like a beautiful live butterfly.
“…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,….” Hebrews 12:1b-2a
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
© Robyn Mulder 2001, therobynsnest.org