Shedding Skin

I remember sitting at coffee with a dear friend and mentor in college and she told me, "If you cut open a chrysalis you won't find a caterpillar growing wings. You won't find a caterpillar butterfly hybrid. You will find butterfly soup. The caterpillar doesn't just change, it dissolves, it becomes completely broken down that it might become an entirely new creation." That image stuck to my heart for years. I felt that image. And in times of transition, in times when the world felt like it was being turned on it's head, I would go back to it. Remember the chrysalis. Remember butterfly soup. You are being broken down. You are becoming something entirely different.

This season has felt very much like a season of deep work, of shifting, of radical change in my heart. And like past seasons of change I have come back to the image of the butterfly... and you know what? This time it's not sticking. Something about that image doesn't completely fit with this season.

There is a shift happening, a change, but the word I've been continually coming back to is shedding. As I process aloud with Bryan I often use the term "stripping down" - that of course leads to innuendos and jokes on his part, but the word use feels right to my heart.

Then today I read this in The Crossroads of Should and Must:

The snake is the ancient sacred symbol for transformation. In order to grow, it must shed its skin. This process is painful, dangerous, and necessary for growth. The snake's insides are literally outgrowing its outsides, and it must remove its restrictive outermost layer.

The snake rubs and scratches, feeling that something's not quite right. During the process, its coloring sometimes shifts to an indigo blue hue. If for some reason the snake cannot shed its skin, over time it will become malnourished, possibly even blind, and it will die from its inability to grow.

But when it successfully completes the process, the snake emerges stronger and healthier - a new incarnation.

I set the book down on my lap and stared at the page. This was the image. The image I'd been searching for, and skirting around, the image that was right there, but just out of reach. This is the picture for this season.

It's not a dissolving. It's an expanding. I am not experiencing a radical complete change. I am experiencing a shift, a shedding. An uncomfortable one. One that makes me itch, one that feels vulnerable and stirs up fear.

I am letting go of things. Letting go of alter egos, letting go of clutter, letting go of non-essentials, trying to get at the heart of things, the center of things, the inside being.

For weeks now I have been wearing my heart on my sleeve more than I ever have. I've ugly cried in public places, with friends and alone. I've let my heart be open and exposed in ways that I haven't before and I've felt things, really felt things.

It's like my skin is starting to break down.

I'm outgrowing old desires, old paradigms, old beliefs about myself. And yet I don't know yet entirely what to replace them with. I'm just scratching and shedding, frazzled and uncomfortable, exposed.

Ready to grow larger, more real, more me, more authentic.

And I find myself thinking again of a quote I came across many years ago by Carl Roger:

Becoming a Person means the individual moves towards BEING, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is. He moves away from being what he is not, from being a facade.

He is not trying to be MORE than he is, with the attendant feelings of insecurity or bombastic defensiveness. He is not trying to be LESS than he is, with the attendant feelings of guilt or self-deprecation.

He is increasingly listening to the deepest recesses of his psychological and emotional being, and finds himself increasingly willing to be, with greater accuracy and depth, that self which he most truly is.

And yet, I'm not actually there yet. Not even close. But, truly, closer than I've ever been. The shedding, must happen first, right? There needs to be room for that kind of growth. Space to expand.

Lord, strip away from me all that is not of You. And all that is not of me, for me, mine by your calling and design. Meet me here in this discomfort, this shedding, this letting go, in new spaces of surrender. Open my eyes to see clearly, to know my own core, to see clearly the sins, distractions, and facades that must go. Grow me into a new creation, the person I truly am, the person you desire me to be. Enlarge me. Strengthen me. Change me. In Jesus name. Amen.

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany