It Is What It Is….On Butterflies and Moths


“It is what it is” is a phrase I have been known to use from time to time.  It reflects an acceptance of reality and recognition that some things cannot be changed.  Recently, I observed a new student in our program saying this, too, on several occasions.  At some point I will want to talk to her about her use of the phrase and what it means to her.  If one uses it as an excuse for avoiding contemplation of the need or possibility of change, then it may not be so useful.

In one of the discipleship classes this week we were watching a teaching video in which the speaker, Lisa Terkuyrst, was sharing an incident that happened with her and her daughter.  While walking they encountered a branch on a shrub with numerous caterpillars.  They carefully took the branch and put it in a large container to observe.  Over the next few days they were delighted to find that the caterpillars spun cocoons in their makeshift observatory.  After a while all of the cocoons yielded their new creations.  But instead of colorful butterflies, Lisa reported that what they discovered were small dull, neutral colored moths.  She was disappointed with the outcome of their little observational experiment.  Her daughter, on the other hand, was delighted with the new creatures.  She did not have a preconceived notion of the outcome.  She was able to simply delight in observing the process itself, without focusing on what she had hoped to see.  Lisa observed that she felt badly about her disappointment in the face of her child’s delight.   They took the moths outside and gently released them into the breeze.  The moths, just like their more colorful cousins, the Monarch butterflies, took happily to flight.  They were exactly what God had intended them to be.  Each creature is beautiful in its own way and is living out what God intended.

I often use the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly in talking to new Titus 2 students during intake about the recovery journey and life transitions.  So this was a very poignant lesson for me.

I realized that I, too, sometimes struggle with the disappointment of the outcome of reality instead of simply delighting in watching the process as it unfolds, trusting God entirely with the results.  Not every student that God brings to us for discipleship and mentoring is going to become the spiritually and emotionally mature, fully committed disciple of Christ that I would hope to see.  Not every one is able to be fully independent and capable of managing her life with financial stability and security for herself and her children. Many, however, will  find healing and peace to be able to live with a measure of gratitude to God and a degree of functionality sufficient to avoid repeated arrests and self-harm.  And some will remain largely unchanged by the efforts on their behalf but may come to an acceptance of themselves or the circumstances of their lives, learning to live with who they are, or rather, who they themselves have chosen to be, having largely refused to cooperate with the process of change to which they had been invited.

Through the years I have learned to keep a bit of distance between myself and the process and not personalize the outcome.  I am a technician, an instrument, a facilitator, and at times simply an observer.  The process is already defined for each individual according to how God has created her, what  God’s purpose is for her life, and how willing she is to be molded by the process and God’s will. It makes it easier to engage in and delight in the process with each woman, regardless of what the outcome will be.  And even on the occasions when a caterpillar turns out to be a centipede and no observable change occurs, it’s okay because the process and the outcome are determined by God and God’s work in and with the individual.