I once found a cocoon in the fall leaves. I wasn’t sure whether anything might be alive in it, or even if it was definitely a cocoon. I suspected, and decided to keep it and see what might come of it. I put it in one of my kids’ little plastic bug catchers and stored it on top of the fridge in the garage, and kind of sort of forgot about it through the winter.
About six months later, a flutter of movement on top of the fridge caught my eye. When I realized an enormous polyphemus moth had emerged inside the bug catcher (one just like the moth I wrote about here), I jumped into action. I showed it to the kids, and quickly realized we had two problems: the bug catcher was WAY too small for this huge creature, and he was too big to fit through the exit. I opened the door to the bug catcher, but it just wasn’t going to work.
I realized I would have to take the plastic and metal screen pieces apart to free him, but each movement of the cage made him agitated. He would flap his wings (because, you know, he was made to do that), but because he was so big and his cage was so small, the flapping soon started wearing holes in his wings. Yes, holes.
I worked as fast as I could and finally pried the bug catcher apart. I placed Paul (by this time, the kids and I named him Paul the Polyphemus Moth) into a large, netted cage. But, sadly, the damage had already been done to his wings. He sat on the floor of the cage and flapped pathetically, and couldn’t rise.
I let him out of the cage to give him more space (and to take photos), but the holes in his wings had crippled his ability to be what he was made to be. I put him back into the bigger cage and pondered what I should do. If I let him go free, he would quickly be eaten by another animal. (He was big and juicy and meaty, y’all. Tempting for a predator!) Should I release him so he could die quickly or keep him caged and try to feed him until a slow death overtook him? I knew he would die in the near future anyway. (Once eclosion [hatching] is complete for a polyphemus moth, they live only about a week.)
I stared at him in his cage. I felt regret because I was the one who, in effect, clipped his wings. I put him in a cage that was too small for him, and limited his ability to grow and fly. I devastated him. And in his panic to be set free, he rubbed holes in his wings and killed his chances to take flight.
At this moment of my life, this moth’s fate felt so very much like my own. I was in a stage of my life where I felt caged. I was defining myself on my surroundings, and letting my “cage” dictate my abilities. I had stopped looking to my Creator to shelter me, and flapped my wings uselessly against walls that were suffocating me. I based my worth on what the relationships around me told me I was. I couldn’t see glory because of all the routine tasks of life that were squeezing my heart into a small space. The things my heart was soaring towards felt unattainable and I felt undeserving of fulfilled dreams. I was agitating and flapping and doubting myself, which kept tearing holes in my wings. I ignored my spiritual gifts and, honestly, looked at them like curses instead of blessings. And then the Holy Spirit convicted me of this truth:
The longer I stayed in my “cage,” the less likely I would be able to fly.
I HAD to get out. I needed to get out. I wasn’t quite sure what it would look like to be outside my cage, and the unknown was terrifying to me (because even though it was suffocating me, at least I knew my cage’s parameters). But I knew the longer I stayed where I was, the closer I would be to rubbing my wings into little bloody stumps. Painful, bloody stumps have a way of splashing pain onto other people because it’s tortuous to be around someone whose potential has been stunted. I realized leaving my cage wasn’t just for my own good, but for the good of Dan and my kids and those people who surrounded me with their love. But even more than that, leaving the cage was what my Father made me to do.
I decided to keep Paul until he died, and do my best to feed him whatever it is that moths eat. I couldn’t just set him free to be destroyed, and I selfishly wanted to keep him near me as a reminder to be brave in leaving my own cage. So I kept him until he died, then gently mounted his body and cocoon in a shadow box that sits in a place I can see him and be reminded to spread my wings and fly.