One of the few lists I subscribe to on the Internet is the Daily Dig, from the Bruderhof communities. It offers a thought-provoking quote every day and most of them are incredible. I got this one a few days ago. I know it is an old illustration, but one worth repeating.
One day as a small opening appeared on a cocoon, a man sat for several hours watching the butterfly struggle to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening was nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings. Then the butterfly would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were allowed to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could be. We could never fly.
No where does this apply more clearly than it does with people breaking free of religious obligation to live freely in God’s life. You can’t badger people into it. You cannot drag them out on your own or you will damage them and God’s work in them. They’ll never learn to soar in God’s grace if they don’t embrace the struggle themselves and learn to rely on God as he frees them. That’s the only way out.
There is a huge difference between encouraging someone as God leads them on the journey, and taking over the journey for them. If we can’t remember that we’ll find our best intentions to help other will only be destructive to them. Cheer them on, don’t push them ahead.