I watched a dragonfly die today.
It was the oddest thing. It landed on the curb next to me gently setting down. It laid its tail section down one segment at a time, then folded its legs, and finally laid its wings down for the final time.
It just stopped.
It shut down.
And then it died.
I watched it for a few minutes just to make sure it wasn’t just resting, because I’d never seen anything like that before.
It’s so foreign to me to simply know when it’s time to die, and then do it.
Our purpose is so different.
There have been times in my life (long ago) when I wanted to die, even felt the need to die. To just sleep and not bother waking up.
But I realized that my death would accomplish nothing.
And in opposition to that same realization came another: My life can accomplish much.
I have a different purpose from the dragonfly, and have devoted my life to the One who saved it, so it is not my place to end it.
I don’t want to waste my death, because even that has purpose when I put my life in the proper context. Finding my purpose is one thing, but accepting that purpose and choosing to live it out is something else entirely.
I have always looked at dragonflies as intellectual curiosity personified. It’s a picture of what humans do on the inside. The dragonfly flies about, sees something that arouses its curiosity, hovers over it in examination, and then moves on to the next thing having satisfied its curiosity.
I live on curiosity. I thrive on wonder. If I lose that then I’m as good as dead.
If I seek nothing, if I lose the desire to know and be known, then what is left for me?
What if I cease to strive to know myself? How do I run from that?
Yet that’s what I’ve been doing – running from myself, and it’s surprisingly difficult to get away. It’s exhausting. It’s like spraying bug repellent on an insect – how does it get away from itself?! I fill my time with activities that I can’t remember by the end of the week, and I have nothing to show for it. I can’t maintain commitments to myself so I have trouble committing to others. I hate that, because I know the value of commitment, but I understand that my commitment to someone is insufficient to satisfy all of their needs. And in the end I have discovered that my need to satisfy the needs of others can actually be selfish sometimes. I’m not always doing it for them. Sometimes I’m doing it because it makes me feel better about myself. And in a circular mentality I realize that I’m doing so much to keep myself busy so I have an excuse to avoid examining myself.
My mirror has been left covered for a long time, but having recently divested myself of a few responsibilities my thoughts turn more frequently to myself. I have fewer things to distract me.
I have a different purpose now. It’s odd how I found out. Or maybe not. Maybe this is how we always find out - when a stranger makes an observation we never considered before.
I had a landscaper come by the house recently to give an estimate on removing a tree stump in my front yard. He stopped by during the day when I was not home and left his card with the estimate. When I talked to him later he asked, “Is there anyone living there? It looks vacant.”
Hmmm. I went out to the street and looked back at my house.
Oh, you mean because I ripped every living thing out of the flower beds? Or the dead lawn? Or the peeling paint on the trim? Or perhaps the grass growing in the rain gutters?
Where have I been?
Sometimes it takes new eyes to realize you were blind.
I got so used to living by simple attrition that I forgot to push back against the forces that I thought were limiting me. I have been avoiding all the things I need to do to make my life liveable. Sometimes life requires that “you must be present to win”.
Sometimes I have to actively take possession of it.
Sometimes…ok, all the time, it’s worth it.
It doesn’t always feel that way though. It’s in those hard times that I remember my intrinsic worth that still remains regardless of my circumstance or another’s opinion, and this is important because one of my strongest desires in life right now is to be in a relationship. I learned to interpret my self-worth through my relationship so now I long for it. At times it consumes me.
To be once again connected to another.
I lived so many years where my value was directly related to what I could or could not do for another person, in a value system that was completely false, that my desire to now choose a relationship based on a purer instinct is often overwhelming.
I discovered that love is what comes back to us, but only the love of God comes back in its purest state. All other love is tainted by the sediment of this world.
We are abused so we understand that love is pain.
We are abandoned so we understand that love is loss.
We are deceived so we understand that love is untrue.
Because we seek other loves before His we learn avoidance.
We learned that disagreement was to be avoided and gave up intelligent discourse for inauthentic relationship.
We learned to lie for fear that others wouldn’t love us if they really knew us.
Because we learned the wrong expressions of love, and yet are created to love, we keep looking for the incorrect expressions of our deepest desires.
But I also discovered that my desire and my purpose are not always the same.
I was fortunate enough to hear what I think God was trying to tell me about it.
The weird part of it all is that my desire hasn’t changed, but there is definitely a shift in my focus. I have to make a determined effort at times not to think about it, but I’m better when I don’t.
So I wait.
Waiting is a worthy cause, it’s just not terribly enjoyable.
My desires and my purpose are different, and when I try to fulfill one while still anchored in the other this prevents me from being effective in either.
In order to effect change in my life I have to make choices. Making choices requires effort. It means saying “no” to things, some of which I desire, but would not be good for me. I convince myself that it would be better to just let life happen to me so I wouldn’t have to work at it, make no sacrifices.
But a life without sacrifice is a worthless life.
I paid no price and therefore gave it no value.
It’s easier to wait for someone else to regulate me, than it is to make the choice myself. But that’s just one more way to put responsibility for my own choices on someone else’s shoulders.
It would be so easy…
And it is done so often. The role of “victim” is easily assumed in our society. Everything seems better when someone else is there to take the blame.
But I am faced with the same questions in life over and over again.
What is my purpose? To seek and glorify God in my life.
Am I living according to that purpose? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Does my life have more meaning than my death? It does now. There was a time when it didn’t.
Because when Christ said, “It is finished!” He meant that His purpose had been accomplished.
The purpose of His death was to purify me. To give me a clean slate from which to start over in my messy life.
Every day I have a new opportunity, a fresh start that makes no mention of yesterday’s sin.
For Grace is such a heady thing, intoxicating and giving of life. Forgiveness releases me from so much pain, and yet is so often difficult to practice.
Forgiveness is not such a small thing. Consider how difficult it is for us to forgive some minor offense against us, and compare it with His forgiveness of the world. It’s a crushing burden, but He came to take it willingly upon Himself.
After the dragonfly died a small breeze wafted by and caught his wings. It balanced on the edge before falling off as though it still felt the need to do one last thing, but then it succumbed. It seemed as though it had no more weight and was lifted off the curb onto the ground beside it. His purpose was complete, and so his life.
Purpose gives me presence, impact, and compassion.
Purpose allows me to see the differences of love; which is pure and which is less so.
Purpose shows me what to change, what to be, where to go.
Purpose gives me a reason to keep going. It’s simultaneously a future goal as well as a present place. It allows me to think freely, to wonder, to question, and ultimately to stand in awestruck wonder of the love of He who is greater than me.
So I suppose that dragonfly had a greater purpose than I thought.
©Dan Bode 2013