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A Promise Within a Woolly Bear

Andrea Burke

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

[ This is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the unedited work of my unfinished life. As I'm re-reading these old chapters now and rewriting, and sitting in the general discomfort of things in the past, I'm also hopeful. The Lord is faithful. He leaves no stone unturned. ]

My window is open which is a small and gentle grace today. I am working to the soundtrack of drops of rain and falling leaves while my daughter shouts to me from the still green backyard.

"Mom, do woolly bears like wet stuff?" she hollers at my window, her boots covered in autumn mud and her hair wild as ever. I make-up an answer, a convincing yes, and tell her to look again in the fairy garden and under the leaves that hang low on the corner of the house. She nods and runs off again, magnifying glass in hand. Today we are searching for the almanac-friendly caterpillars, and she is desperate to hold one, balled up brown and orange, in hand. I used to be her. I used to spend my autumn days looking for their tiny bodies. The fun is in the hunt, so I prod her to keep looking.

"Woolly bears cocoon for the winter," I shout to her. I'm reading the explanation of them online and stop when I get to the words, "Their hearts stop. Their guts freeze. Their blood stops."

Their hearts stop. But their life doesn't. Something in them preserves them through the season when everything else dies. They are born to gently graze death and beat it by the warm thaw of April. Sometime in spring, an Isabella Tiger Moth emerges. A new purpose. A new name. A new shape.

I guess I know this lesson of nature well. And maybe you do too.

Sometimes, in order to get from here to there, from this side to that side of things, from the running leap of faith to landing on your feet in Tomorrowland, something has to happen. Something must happen and will happen and it may feel a bit like death.

Your heart will stop and your blood will freeze and from all outside angles and all interior feelings, it will feel as though your life has come to an end.

This is the message of autumn. Gather the fruit. Collect inside what you’ll need to sustain through winter. And when the pitch of a winter night falls heavy, and you feel as though all is slipping away into the dark, remember that the message of hope is wrapped up in the cocoon of a farmer faithful caterpillar. 

We are not promised a hope that shrivels and dies. We're promised a living one. When the grave closed over Christ, death seemed to have conquered. When I was at the end of my exhausted rope of selfishness, I didn't find that the cross wasn't enough. Instead, within me I found something pounding against the darkness. Not my own strength. Not my own blood. But the kind of living hope that springs eternal. The kind that keeps seemingly dead things alive when they probably shouldn't be (by all natural explanations.)

So take heart, your spring is coming.