For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse. – Romans 1:20
A Lesson in Patience
One September, I cut some leaves from our parsley plant to throw in a salad and discovered on the back of one leaf two swallowtail butterfly eggs like tiny pearls. We were leaving for the beach the next day, and I was very distressed that I had likely killed the future butterflies. I called the butterfly house at the science museum in Houston and was told to keep the leaf moist until the eggs hatched, and the caterpillars would live. So I put the leaf back under the parsley plant, and my dear mother misted it each day for a week. The night I found the eggs, I dreamed that two caterpillars hatched but later died, and then I looked down and saw a whole clutch of butterfly eggs and knew they would hatch soon and live.
When we returned from the beach, the two caterpillars had emerged and were busily munching parsley. They next day, I found seven more caterpillars on another parsley plant. My husband built a butterfly house, and we put the two plants and their inhabitants in it on the front porch. When it was time to make their chrysalises, the first two died before the process was complete for them, but the next seven completed the process. Because it was fall, they wintered in their chrysalises rather than emerging two weeks later as butterflies. They did not emerge until late April. It took them so long, that I thought they had died. When they did come forth, one at a time, in their beautiful perfection, it was like a miracle. And indeed, it seems to me a miracle that something that small, undergoing such extensive change, can survive without any sustenance for so many months.
I tell you this story because the things we pray for are often like those butterflies. There are things of such life and death importance that we bring before God, and the requirement of patience as we wait for answers to manifest can sometimes feel unbearable. We can worry that the thing is dead, that there is no hope, but often in nature what appears to be dead is merely dormant and very much alive.
I’m reading the book, Intercessory Prayer, by Dutch Sheets (thank you, Kevin Shorter). In it, he tells a story of praying several times a week for a year for a woman who was considered brain dead from a massive bacterial infection. Her medical providers considered her to be without hope, but when Dutch prayed, he felt led by the Holy Spirit to pursue her healing through prayer. He was ridiculed, discouraged and insulted by staff. After investing 70+ hours of prayer, he saw no outward change in her. It would be very tempting for most of us to bow to the obvious and give up, but Dutch relied on the unseen, not the seen, and the woman woke one morning, completely restored. The staff was dumbfounded, the doctors called her a medical miracle, and the nursing home where she stayed was contacted by people as far away as Europe interested in her case.
I want to encourage you to not give up, to persist in your prayers, and to ask God to help you partner with him as you intercede for others. He will encourage, strengthen, and direct you as you rely on him.