Lessons From Millie the Monarch

Meet Millie the Monarch!  For the past two years, Brenda has been raising monarch butterflies.  She has become a world-leading lepidopterologist!  She catches the caterpillar, feeds it milkweed leaves, and watches as the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis and ultimately into a beautiful monarch butterfly.  No matter how many times we watch it happen, we are in awe of the miracle of metamorphosis.

Currently, we are waiting for Millie the Second to emerge.  (Yes according to our grandchildren all Monarchs have the name Millie!)  I’ll be honest, I am getting impatient.  Every morning I get up to make my coffee and check to see if Millie has crawled out of her chrysalis.
Apparently, it can take up to two weeks for a monarch to emerge.  This morning as I discovered the little green chrysalis unchanged I was once again struck with the truth that I am impatient.  I am sure I am not the only person who struggles with this.  Millie was teaching me that transformation doesn’t happen overnight!  I could almost hear her say, “Take a chill pill Warren!”  Just yesterday I was on my way to a State Park to ride my bike and there was a person going 40 miles an hour in a 55 mile an hour zone.  They should have been arrested.  There was one short passing zone that I used to pass this happy vacationing family at 65 miles an hour.  We both arrived at our destination at about the same time.  No, I didn’t make eye contact with them.  There is little doubt patient people are healthier, happier, less stressed, and often more compassionate.  Millie simply reinforces the truth that patience is a virtue.

Millie was also teaching me to acknowledge the truth that life is short and that I need to value every moment God gives me.  Did you realize that the whole life cycle of a butterfly is about 30 days?  The egg is deposited on the leaf and stays there for about 3-4 days.  The caterpillar emerges and eats for the next 10-14 days.  It then turns into the pupa and sits still for another 9-14 days.  Once the butterfly emerges it will live up to two weeks with its only goal to reproduce and lay eggs.  All that change, all that beauty, and it only is on this planet for 30 days.  Millie was reminding me that I have no idea how long I am going to live.  Every day is a gift from God that I can squander or enjoy.  It’s a day I can live for myself or give myself away to love and serve another person.  All too often I allow busyness to rob me from enjoying the gift of a new day.  Millie is teaching me to slow down, open my eyes, and thank God for a new day to live.

And finally, Millie was teaching me that struggle is a normal and necessary part of life.  There is a well-known story of a young boy who caught a caterpillar and asked his mom if he could keep it until it became a butterfly.  Like Brenda, he watched in awe up until the day the butterfly began to emerge.  He watched it struggling to get out and became anxious that he wouldn’t make it so he cut a small hole to help it get out quicker.  Sadly, the butterfly emerged with a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.  It was never able to fly.  The boy learned that the butterfly was supposed to struggle.  In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings.  Without the struggle, the butterfly was doomed.  The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.  Millie was teaching me that sometimes I need to allow the people I love to work through a new challenge on their own before I swoop in to “save” them.  Often we would let David struggle to find a baseball he had dropped.  While it pained me to see him blindly search only 1 inch from his lost baseball, we wanted David to be self-sufficient and believe he could do anything he put his mind to.  Millie was saying, “Be patient, slow down and smell the roses, and don’t be afraid of the struggle.”

Well, I could go on with lessons from Millie but I will end with a quote from Richard Bach that says,

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” 

(If you are interested in the video Brenda made about Millie, click the following link: https://youtu.be/3IU3nfj0T5E