A young boy came across a chrysalis and brought it into his house. He watched, over the course of hours, as the butterfly struggled to break free from its confinement. It managed to create a small hole in the chrysalis, but its body was too large to emerge. It tired and became still.
The boy decided to help the soon-to-be butterfly blossom faster and easier than it could otherwise accomplish on its own. So, the boy excitedly—with loving, well-meaning intention—carefully opened the chrysalis to assist the butterfly into freedom.
What the boy in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting chrysalis and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it had achieved freedom from the cocoon. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly.
When my children were young, our home was filled with books, educational games, ‘Barney’ (the purple dinosaur) and classical music. I was determined to give them the best I could, to set them up to be successful. Their achievements became my achievements; their wins were my wins; their success, a reflection of my parenting skills. I was on a slippery slope …
However much I tried to shield them from hurt, they were still faced with disappointments; they didn’t make the top hockey team, the final result for the maths test could have been so much better, there were friendship conflicts, they got cuts and bruises when they fell … and had the stitches to prove it. How desperately I wanted to protect them from all these hurtful experiences.
I’m a mum, I wanted to save them from failing and yet, the bumps and knocks they received along the way were the life lessons that allowed them to grow the most. It was in the struggle they (and we, as parents alongside them) learned the most about themselves: self-regulation, courage, resilience and perseverance.
Their achievements, successes and accomplishments are worth celebrating. However, mistakes, failures and setbacks are the ones that make us strong and bold. Sometimes, struggles and hard work are exactly what we need in our life. They strengthen us. They teach us courage.
As a parent, the instinct to help is hard to resist. We see our children struggling at school, interacting with other children, or falling behind on the playing field, and we want to step in and save them from hardship. We want to take their pain upon ourselves.
Imagine life without any obstacles, we would not be as strong as we could have been. We would not be courageous. We would not develop resilience. We wouldn’t understand the notion of perseverance.
And finally, in Psalms 127:3 we are told “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Over time, I have come to accept that God loves my children more than I ever can and He has plans for them.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!