Last month I ran in a trail race called Shadow of the Giants near Yosemite National Park. Through the years, this race has become a favorite to run with my friends. The course winds through the Sierra National Forest. It’s always a feast for the senses as we run alongside the giant sequoia trees with their enormous trunks pointing toward heaven.
The first 4.5 miles are uphill as the elevation soars above 5,000 feet, but it’s all worth it when you get a whiff of the intoxicating scent of the forest, see the paths painted with wildflowers, and hear the symphony of rushing water below.
I trained for this race for three months, but three weeks before the race I tested positive for COVID. Thankfully, in about a week I recovered from the worst symptoms and tested negative. But I struggled with some strange breathing patterns all the way up to a few days before the race. My chest tightened even when I was resting, and I couldn’t seem to get the deep breaths I was used to.
My body felt strong enough to run the 20k, but I was nervous about what my breathing would be like at that higher elevation. My friend and I drove up the night before and stayed about twenty minutes from the starting line. We hoped this would help us acclimate to the elevation and get a better night’s sleep.
By God’s grace, I didn’t have any breathing problems during the Shadow of the Giants race, though I definitely had to take it easier than I have in years past. Our group of mama runners jog-hiked quite a bit of the race. There were times when I thought maybe I should push harder because that’s what I would have done before, but my spirit said to stay steady and savor the journey. There was an invitation to go slower and not feel ashamed about it.
This was a profound example of something much bigger. As we are coming out of this pandemic (if I can say that?), we need to go gently. We need to listen to our bodies and the pace of our souls. It’s tempting to jump right back into the frenetic pace, the striving mentality. But as I learned in my race, I don’t have to strive and sprint at that pace anymore. My body needs time to heal and my lungs space to breathe. That’s not something to take lightly.
In the final mile of the race, I noticed this butterfly flitting near my shoulder. Butterflies have been special to me since my husband’s cancer diagnosis in 2014. On the day my husband and I received the most devastating news of our lives, God brought me a butterfly.
I can still hear my daughter’s excited voice: “Mom, come look!”
Hovering over a bush with the other kids huddled around her, she motioned me to join them. I entered the circle of eight-year-olds full of wide-eyed wonder. Then I spotted what had drawn their attention: a butterfly with paper-thin wings of pale yellow outlined in inky black. We held our breath and took in all of its intricate glory. It felt sacred that this butterfly was letting us all lean in so close.
This seemed like such a small thing, but really it was a big thing. God used that butterfly to remind me of the miracle and metamorphosis that happens in us when we depend on Him through trials. I needed that promise.
A science teacher friend explained to me that the most surprising part of the life cycle of a butterfly is that she starts as a caterpillar who cocoons in a chrysalis. This is where the metamorphosis or change happens. If you opened the chrysalis in this middle stage, you would see a goopy, unidentifiable mess. But patience will reveal the butterfly pressing through the walls of the chrysalis and emerging with fully-formed legs, eyes, and wings.
The apostle Paul illuminated this idea in a letter to the Corinthians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). We are completely transformed by the new life we experience in Christ.
Whenever I see a butterfly, I am reminded that surprising beauty emerges from that stage in our lives when we are squeezed tight, when we experience challenges, when we lean into grief and loss. That is when the metamorphosis of our heart happens. Through the years, the butterfly has come to represent my new life born out of the ashes.
In the Shadow of the Giants race, that butterfly reminded me God hides us, cocoons us in His presence, presses us through the hard circumstances of life, and gives us strength to emerge on the other side with wings. That sweet butterfly inspired me and kept me company while I let my feet fly through the ferns to the finish line.
Friends, we have been changed by this pandemic and the trauma of the last few years. We have faced trials, sickness, violence, and fractures in our communities. In these days, weeks, and months to come, you have permission to go gently. If you are in the middle of that chrysalis stage, give yourself time to grieve and go at a slower pace. This is where the true metamorphosis happens.
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Ariel Krienke says
Great message encouraging to let God heal you
Thank you for this beautiful story & insights. I recently spent 3 days in Sequoia NP. My soul & spirit too were nourished by precious moments among the noble, ancient trees… reminding me to slow down & feel the grace around me every day.
I live about an hour from Sequoia! So beautiful! I see God’s handiwork in all of the trees! I love the network of roots evident in them.
Thank you! That means so much!
Love the message!!
Thank you for reading! We can go gently!
d from Canada says
Beautifully done Dorina
Thank you for the reminder & encouragement
I’m so glad this resonated with you!
K Ann Guinn says
Yes, yes, YES! Thanks for not only sharing your story, but also encouraging us to allow ourselves time to heal. We all have much to grieve from these past two years, but our family was forever affected and changed as we lost both of our moms, mine across the US-Canada border, so we were unable to be with her. It has been so hard on my father, and both family dynamics have changed greatly. My last “home” (where I grew up) in Canada has also been sold, and I feel like I’ve lost so much in this time. God is still faithful and has been showing us his care, and I will hold on to the picture of the chrysalis, trusting that we will all emerge stronger and more beautiful than before. God help us to hold on and to keep reaching out to those around us with his love while we wait.
I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. It’s hard to grieve when there is distance and lack of closure like that. My prayers are with you in the chrysalis.
While I sit here with the Word opened before me. I’m struggling with God asking and begging for an answer as to why I’m not out there doing His will yet. So I pick up my phone and go to my email to see if the new incourage email has come through yet. Hoping for an answer or something!!!
Then I start to read and realize that He answered my prayer and heard my cries for guidance.
This spoke to me in so many ways. This is and was answered prayers. I couldn’t help but cry and the proceed to thank Him and Praise Him.
I get these in my emails daily and they are a continued blessing upon blessing.
Thank you so much for being an obedient follower and encourager.
You’re making me cry! I love to hear the ways God meets us do personally when we cry out to Him. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you, Dorina! This is lovely.
I appreciate your encouragement!
I have heard this middle stage called “caterpillar soup.” I think I am in the soup! Thank you for this lovely encouragement.
Oh, I love that! Caterpillar soup!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Dorina thank you for what you shared. It really speaks to me. I come from Enniskillen in County Fermanagh Northern Ireland. Most things are up and running again like they were before the Covid pandemic started in the first place. Were you had to wear masks and self isolate and not be in anyone home until you got the go ahead but them it was limited to a certain amount of people only allowed in your home. If they didn’t have Covid or think they had it. But now everyone seems to think some of them it ok to still do things you were not allowed to do over the Covid pandemic. They said the people in charge of the rules you don’t have to wear a mask if you don’t want to in shop or restaurants etc. But you do still have to wear on if going to the Hospital. Covid is on the rise over here again. So you have to be careful still. There are people going to beaches on a nice day they be packed. People over here going on Holiday because they have not they say to them go a Holiday for such a long time since the Covid pandemic. With the Covid pandemic rising again. You over here so many people have it again. Because there are those who think the rules have lifted I got my jabs I be ok. Then they are some of the ones that catch it. So I believe Jesus saying if pron to catching a cold easily or the flue. Before all this Covid came about. To use especially alot of wisdom. If not sure be like Solomon in the Bible and ask God to give us wisdom by praying to him for it To do the right thing especially if pron to catching the cold or flue. Especially if even though Covid on the rise and things lifted and people going and doing things as it was not here and had never been. If invited somewhere with a big crowd or going to beaches with alot of people you know going to to be there. As God to help you do the right thing. Go or not go and ask God if says go to project you. If God say stay at home even though you think you are loose out and want to go. It better not to go and have that wisdom and listen to God. Not do what you like to do. Then end up with Covid. I have heard of people who have done that went without seeming wisdom in God. Especially if saved and went because they didn’t want to miss out. They ended up with Covid. This were if big crowds. No matter what is I seek God in it. If I forgot to if I knew big crowds going to be there. I just be sensible and stay at home and not go so as not to catch Covid. I know people who are saved that went and ended up catching it. To something they would enjoy. They are saved. So we have to go gently and if have to say no not be afraid to say no. Especially if pron to catching something easily. That the time if we were not sensible and went even if wore a mask. We still catch Covid. We don’t want that to happen. As I know family of mine who had it. It not nice to see them with it. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little in my prayers. Xx
Yes, we have to go gently.
Patricia Raybon says
What a beautiful reflection, amazing Dorina. Thank you for sharing!
I always appreciate your encouragement, dear Patricia! Miss you!
Beautiful Dorina! I used to be in your group on Facebook, and it was always so encouraging! I left FB and was thrilled to see your post here. As a woman who lives with Chronic pain, for the past 30 years I so understand “No Shame in Going Gently”. I used to work long hours, volunteer and take care of my son and home before I got sick. It was HARD being stopped in my tracks what seemed like overnight. I had to learn, it was okay to say No to exhausting things even if they were good (had to step down from our church choir) it was just too much for me. I am grateful, though, that the men in the choir would carry a stool out for me to sit until I could no longer do that. It took me some time to adjust to my new normal, live within my limitations while being careful not to make myself ‘older before my time’ and to gently push past those limitations to create a new normal for myself. I so love what you shared about the butterfly. Thank you. God bless!
Carla! Wonderful to hear from you. I love the sweet example of the men in the choir carrying your stool so you can participate in something life giving while remaining within your limitations! Blessings to you!
Beth Williams says
Just love your writing. The pandemic has hit hospital workers the hardest. My unit was shut down Mid November last year. I was moved to a Covid ICU Unit as a clerical. It was scary at first. It got hard seeing patients die every day. It took its toll on some of the RNs. That plus having to isolate from friends , family & churches. So many didn’t have any one to talk to about it. I knew God would see us through this some how. He has in the past & He doesn’t change. Add to that I’ve witnessed God get me through other hard trials. My metamorphosis happened back in 2016-2017.
We need to slow down, savor life & be gentle on ourselves. We’ve all been through a lot over the past two years. Take time for ourselves & for God.
Beth, I’m deeply grateful for your constant encouragement and your willingness to share your experiences too!