"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Romans 6:14 ESV
On a typical end-of-summer afternoon in North Florida, two things with wings can be seen in greater abundance: butterflies, and love bugs. I love butterflies. So graceful, such gentle creatures, intent for their entire weeklong lifespan on slurping nectar and making baby butterflies. For all their simple beauty, their symbolism is powerful, crossing barriers of language and beliefs.
And then there are the love bugs. The animal kingdom’s antithesis of that lovely butterfly, love bugs are black and plain and ugly, and they drift through the days of Indian summer, clogging our radiators, speckling our vehicles and getting caught in our hair. Yuk. And then there’s that shameless public display of affection, as they mate in mid-air, as busy as their lovely butterfly counterparts with the task of procreation. They don’t know they’re ugly, or a nuisance. They’re just being love bugs.
On a recent hot afternoon, I was running errands with my husband in his pickup truck. Love bugs dotted the air in front of us like blackened dandelion fluff.
Waiting at a red light, I watched the tenaciously-coupled bugs light on the windshield. *Yawn*. Just then, I noticed one of the bugs lumbering along the wiper blade. He was struggling, but not in the “Who gets to drive?” way that his love bug peers moved around. He was dragging his mate, but not against her will. She was dead. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for that struggling little black bug. And almost immediately I was struck with one of those metaphors I’m so prone to casting your way.
This love bug was dragging around a dead thing. It was weighing him down, and he was absolutely unable to fulfill his purpose, which was, of course, to make more love bugs. As long as he was carrying around the dead weight of his would-be mate, he was absolutely impotent in his world.
Sisters, what dead thing are you dragging around that is preventing you from being all you were created to be? There’s bound to be something. Is it shame? Is your potential to reach others for Christ hampered by your fear that others may discover you are human and therefore likely to make a mistake? Is it blame? Are you carrying the dead weight of a guilt so heavy that it practically paralyzes you, for fear of hurting or hindering someone you love? How about unforgiveness, and the pride that feeds it? That is a dead and stinking thing, and while its stench may not offend others’ nostrils, the decay it causes in your spirit is unmistakable to them.
So many dead things to choose from! Self-hate spawned by our reflection in a mirror. Jealousy of someone who means us no spite, but who has something we believe we ought to have instead. A tendency to gossip, whether with our lips or with our ears: both a dead weight, and a deadly weapon. A murmuring heart (and I don’t mean the medical condition). Complacency is a dead thing we drag around, but so is its opposite: busyness. All of these things threaten to taint our testimony and hinder our ministry.
I don’t know what became of that bug; as we moved on down the road, he was carried off in a warm gust, fighting gravity instead of a contrary pair of wings. He was resigned to carrying around that dead thing, and would probably die that way, not knowing how to let it go. When it comes to the power God affords us to overcome the dead things in our lives, the scriptures and assurances abound: “Whatever God asks us to lift, He gives us the grace to carry.” “What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.” There’s I Corinthians 10:13, and Hebrews 4:15-16, and James 4:7. Just to name a few, of course.
Although a human life is longer than the weeklong one allotted to the butterfly, it is still quite short. Like that love bug on my windshield, we can be weighed down by some dead thing, unable on our own to gather enough strength to finish what we started, or like the butterfly, we can move from flower to flower, taking in what nourishes us and using the tools God’s given us to avoid predators and harmful gusts, and we can fulfill our purpose: growing His kingdom within the circle of influence He’s assigned to us.
God presents us with timeless reminders in countless, seemingly ordinary ways. He’s met me with hard truths on the freeway, in my seat in the choir loft, and in a grove of trees in my back yard. And, lately, on a bug-speckled windshield. I’m thankful that His truth never changes, and I cling to this encouragement as He reveals – and as I seek to cast away – the dead things that are slowing me down: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1).