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currently: giving love

So my friend posted this on the boards of LOBH and after I read it, I thought it was really heartwarming, pure story. She didn't write the story, (and neither did I of course), she said she went on a retreat over the summer, heard the story, and managed to find the story again on the website. But I do hope that this story does give you some thought and some emotions.

One day I was picking up a few things at the supermarket. The paper butterfly fluttered past the shelves of potato chips and cookies and landed on my arm.

It is not often that I am approached in the supermarket by a crudely shaped paper butterfly. I looked down and discovered that the paper butterfly was piloted by a small child. There beside my shoes stood a three-year-old girl, pinching her homemade butterfly and looking up into my quizzical eyes.

I grinned and said, "Hi!"

This little pixie made one more swooping motion with her butterfly and again looked up at me and chirped, "I love you."

That made my day. I crouched down and said, "I love you too."

She beamed with bubbly joy, turned, and scampered down the aisle, her paper butterfly soaring beside her.

My day had been brightened by one of the Butterfly People.

We've all probably seen little kids do such things. They seem so free. To them it's no big deal to skip up to a stranger and blurt, "I love you." Somehow, it seems so natural to them.

My response to the little girl was probably pretty common for her. She's no doubt accustomed to running up to her mom and dad and brother and sister and grandparents and saying, "I love you." And they, in return, are accustomed to hugging the little girl and saying, "I love you too."

She feels free to give her love. It's part of her young life.

But I worry about her. I'm afraid she'll follow all the rest of us. There comes that time in our lives when our "I love you" gift isn't exactly warmly recieved. At age four or five or six we may approach a little friend and utter our favorite line, "I love you." And on that fateful day the little friend says something like, "Oh, shut up. Your breath smells like your daddy's shoes."
At that moment we learn an unfortunate lesson. We learn that love is risky business. After more painful reactions to our "I love you" approaches, we learn to carefully weigh the risks involved before offering our love so freely. Consequently, those around us hear "I love you" less and less.

Our beautiful paper butterflies have become crumpled. They're no longer free to make graceful, soaring flights through supermarkets and other places.

Now we are even afraid to risk flying our butterflies around those very people who used to hug us and respond with "I love you too." The crumpled butterfly syndrome holds us back.
But sometimes we are bothered by what our moms and dads and brothers and sisters must think of us. Do they ever sit and wonder whatever happened to the butterfly spirit within us? I'm sure they remember those beckoning eyes and that squeaky "I love you." Do they suspect that we have stopped loving them? How long has it been since our moms and dads and brothers and sisters have heard us say to them, "I love you"?

It's that crumpled butterfly that holds us back. Too many times we've reached out to another person, only to be ignored, misunderstood, or laughed at. It hurts too much when other don't respond warmly to our love. To soar with the butterfly is risky.

To be one of the Butterfly People we must give 100% of our love. We must take the risk that our love might be rejected. To that lonely new kid in the group, the butterfly within us asks us to reach out and risk our love. To that hard to love person at school, the butterfly asks us to risk our love. To the ex-friend who we've said we "hate", to the old lady at the nursing home, to that bratty little brother, to that tired dad or mom, the butterfly asks us to risk our love- 100%.

It's a natural reaction to guard our feelings, to be cautious about the risks in giving 100%. But the butterfly asks us to look beyond that risk.

God calls us to be His Butterfly People. Jesus said, "if you love me, feed my sheep." It's not enough to simply call ourselves Christians. We are challenged to live dangerously-to take the risks of the Butterfly People. Jesus said, "If you love only the people that love you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners do that! And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get it back, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount! No! Love your enemies and do good to them, lend and expect nothing back, and your reward will be great." (Luke 6:32-35)
Jesus is our glittering example of the Butterfly People. He reached out and risked with 100% of his love. And sure enough, there were people around to curse, to laugh at Him, to ridicule Him, to hurt Him, to shout for His death, and to nail Him to a cross.

But Jesus knew that His actions and His love did not depend on how His love and His actions were received. Jesus remained vulnerable. He was the original Butterfly Person. But that's not the end of the story.

He won in the end - just like all true butterflies. At Easter's dawn, He arose from His temporary cocoon and spread His wings in glorious color. The world would never be the same. And he invites us to join him in His great metamorphosis. He dares us to be His Butterfly People.

You are the butterfly people.

And I must tell you...

I love you.

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