I remember it so clearly…my very first whisper from God. It stirred in me a mix of emotions. For such a small word, it evoked an army of feelings; fear, excitement, a little more fear, confusion, curiosity. But really, honestly, mostly fear.
We were in Santa Fe, NM with Time to Revive - Garth, my parents, our ministry team and others who had come to join in the mission of spreading God’s word. It was September of 2008, the first city we had gone to as a ministry outside of Dallas, so it was a new experience altogether and no one knew fully what to expect. During the day, we walked the streets of downtown, our single purpose to love on the people of Santa Fe. It was the first experience I had with being vocal in my faith and I'm not going to lie, it was intimidating. It was also the first time I experienced brushing up against resistance to what I believed, which greatly added to the intimidation factor.
Garth (my amazing husband I talked about earlier) and I were staying in a condo with my parents, partly because it was convenient and partly because we were that classic young couple with kids trying to save on expenses. Our bed was in the living room on the pull out sofa and after long days of walking through the city and long evenings of worshipping through song & concert, we often crashed in our "room" with the whole family to re-cap the day and all God was showing us. Nothing was out of the ordinary at this point, although the topic of conversation was often the "stretching" in our faith that the events of the day had brought about.
One particular night, after our time of rehashing the day’s events, things went a little differently than normal. If I had to pinpoint a moment in my life when something really altered the course I was on - I would say this was the moment. This was the night that changed everything for me. Not all at once, in a drastic way - but an event that would eventually lead me to a new way of viewing my relationship with Christ.
Everyone had left (basically they just went to their bedroom and closed the door) and Garth & I both got ready for bed. My goal - just so you know - was to get ready and in bed before Garth so I wouldn't have to turn out the lights and walk in the dark all by my 33-year-old self. So I rushed to wash my face, brushed my teeth and jumped onto the sofa. The problem with that whole set-up is that I'm married to a man with the most amazing ability to fall asleep the minute his head hits the pillow. Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary...I'm always left awake to fear the night and what it might bring. So there it is – I’m scared of the dark. Irrational? Very. Still scared in 2016? Yep. My mom keeps trying to get me to remember back to something in my childhood that may have set it all in motion - but every time I think back I get a blank. Nothing seems to have triggered it - it just is. So I’ve always kept lights on. I’ve always made sure I wasn't alone when it was dark and if for some reason I was, doors were locked, all lights were on and I was barricaded in my room, slightly frozen in fear. Weird, I know. I guess there is probably good reason for my mom’s continuous attempts to get me to talk through it. Regardless, that's where I was and I often fought with my brain to beat Garth to sleep…and lost every single time. Pretty soon I heard my husband's steady breathing and knew he was out. So I closed my eyes tight and prayed that God would just knock me out - fully knowing I wouldn't be capable of opening my eyes again once I closed them if I didn't fall asleep. If I had to go to the bathroom, well forget it. And then suddenly I was asleep...or I'm guessing that was the case, because the next thing I knew, something woke me from the deep and blessed sleep I was finally in.
It's weird that something so quiet and gentle would wake me, but it did - and I woke to the sound of my name being said one time. Not "Janaé" - but instead I heard "Jaé". I was startled. Very few people call me Jaé. In fact, only Garth, family and a handful of friends ever use that name. Turning over, I asked Garth what he wanted and was met with silence...or maybe snoring...but whatever the case, Garth was clearly not awake. I was puzzled and now I'm awake and I'm kind of freaking out. Let me remind you, night time is not my friend.
Eyes closed, I feel my heart beating and I realize I'm stuck. Do I open my eyes and take the chance that something unfortunate is standing in front of me? Or do I keep them closed and pray God knocks me out again? It's a bit of a pickle for someone who should have long since outgrown a fear of the dark - I'm pretty sure they don't have classes for people like me - so I'm on my own on this one. Then I hear my name again. "Jaé". Quiet and sure, calling me. I turn over once again, ask Garth what he wants and am met by the same steady breathing of someone deep in sleep. That's when I started praying, "God if that's you - tell me why you're calling my name." Please.
And He did. With my eyes closed I saw one beautiful turquoise-blue butterfly, then another, and another - until my whole sight was filled with butterflies. It was absolutely beautiful and weird all at the same time (remember the whole conservative background thing?!). I was awake, my eyes were closed and yet I was seeing butterflies. Was my imagination in overdrive? Was tonight the night that I went completely insane? Or was there something more that God wanted me to see, to know? So I began to pray and God began to answer. He didn't answer all at once that night, but slowly over the next few days He began to give me answers to what I saw and why I saw it. I think He saw me try to believe and with each step of belief, trust and obedience, He gave me more answers.
The next day I decided to dig in and learn about butterflies and as I read, I learned that the butterfly is often a symbol of the resurrection of Christ as well as the resurrection of believers. The caterpillar disappears into a cocoon, which is like the tomb Christ lay in after the crucifixion. Later, it emerges from "death," having transformed into something more beautiful and powerful than it was. This is what I believe He shared with me that night: you are like a butterfly, you finally gave up your whole life and this is a new beginning. There is so much more for you, just trust Me and what I show you. That was it. Simple and sweet and yet something I had never experienced before.
I often wonder why God comes to me in the night and the conclusion I've come to is that it's when I'm at my weakest. It's the time when I give everything over because, out of fear, I can't seem to control anything, grasping in the dark at nothing. It's the time when I pay closest attention to what's around me even though it can't be seen. And it's the time when I pray the hardest. I think it's really cool and really frustrating all at the same time that the greatest teacher of all is using the very thing that scares me the most to bring me closer to Him.
This butterfly was my first whisper from God, or at least the first one that I listened to. God still, to this day, uses these butterflies to remind me of that first encounter with Him...on the days I don't feel Him quite as close. On the days when I feel lonely or helpless. On the days when I need to see a smile fluttering through the air. He is there in those little blue butterflies and I will forever be grateful He called my name in the dark to show me that blessing. And that I finally listened.
Seriously, how cool is it that even in my disobedience in not writing, God still showed up - and had me write about what He did for me 8 years ago during this exact same month?! Just one more blue butterfly. And that was just the beginning - the cocoon was shed...
"You said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives." - Deuteronomy 5:24