Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If I Were a Butterfly

When I was in second grade and attended a Christian school, we did one of the Kids Praise plays from the Psalty series that was so big during the eighties. It was the first Psalty album, where the kids discover the songbook and learn about praising God. My part was "Linda" and I was so excited to get my very first solo, in the song "If I Were a Butterfly." Each kid sang the part of a different animal thanking God for making them just as they were, and I was the fish. I distinctly remember carrying a cardboard fishy I had painted green and sticking my head through the little hole for my face while singing:

"And if I were a fish in the sea, I'd wiggle my tail and I'd giggle with glee,
But I just thank you Father for making me, me."

I hadn't thought of that song in years and years, and then on day about 6 or 7 years ago, we were camping out in Western New York and from behind a growth of bushes I heard a little voice singing:

"If I were a butterfly, I'd thank you Lord for giving me wings.
And if I were a robin in a tree, I'd thank you Lord that I could sing..."

With all of my heart I wanted to join in and start singing the end of the verse, my part, the fish part, and surprise her out of nowhere, but I chickened out. Hearing the little girl brought me back and awakened the memory. I thought of how proud I was that night, and how disappointed that my mom couldn't be there because she was in the hospital after having Andy. I thought about Lynn Connors, who opened the song with the butterfly part. She died about 10 years later after having an asthma attack. I thought about all of us with our sloppy, colorful, cardboard cutouts and the cuteness of it all, but I still didn't think of the words.

I have a habit of singing songs and not listening to the meaning. I've been known to take years to really pay attention to what a song is actually saying (and then sometimes realizing once I find out, I don't like the song anymore). But this case was different. Not long ago I started to sing the song to Ethan, making the little trunk with my arm for the elephant and snapping my arms for the crocodile smile. Then I was singing and gesturing to the chorus, which goes:

"Cause you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile,
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child,

And I just thank you Father for making me, me."

...and the thought came to me: Do I believe it? Do I know that I know it? For me, for Ethan, for all of us? I sang that song as a seven-year-old who had already learned to not love herself, to base her value on what she did or on who approved of her.

I was reading a book this weekend by Karen Kingsbury about a teenager who'd gotten an abortion and was living with the pain of it. There was a part where through her grieving she talked about naming the child she had aborted Amanda, which meant worthy of love. Worthy of love. The words jumped out of the page at me. We are all worthy of love. I felt the words wrap around my heart like a blanket. Worthy of love. Our past doesn't matter. The way we started doesn't matter. Our defects don't matter. We are all worthy of love. And God has an individual plan for each of us, no matter what.

Now as I sing the song to Ethan, and watch him attempt to touch his mouth for the smile or touch his heart, my own heart is singing. The words are meaning something. I thank God for that.

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