Loving a Prodigal: Pearls and Butterflies

This is the second in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on TIME, which is the theme of the 2013 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals. This letter goes to the members of the Prayer for Prodigals community.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

What do pearls and butterflies have in common?

They both start as something simple and not so beautiful and are transformed into something lovely.

A pearl begins as a tiny grain of sand in an oyster.  It is an irritant and the oyster immediately begins to cover the irritant with nacre, the same substance its shell is made from.  Over time, because of the pressure experienced by the oyster, layer after layer of nacre transforms that grain of sand into a lustrous pearl.You can watch a short video about this here.

Most of us have marveled at how a caterpillar—an ugly, hairy worm crawling on a tree limb or on the ground—can become a lovely butterfly soaring through the sky.  Perhaps you have even watched it happen as a school science experiment.  And you've heard that a butterfly must go through the difficult effort to break out of its cocoon if it is to be able to fly.

You can watch The Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly here.

What do these two transformations require:  Time and Pressure.

What do the transformations we desire for our prodigals require?  Time and Pressure.

Oh, how we wish they would return NOW.  How we want them to be changed overnight!  And sometimes that happens.  Amazing surrender and metamorphosis happen in a moment or a day or a week.

But not usually.  Usually it takes both time and pressure.

What kind of pressure?  Many kinds, actually:  Hurting/disappointing those they love, which matters to them more than they acknowledge or we feel.  Choices that lead to negative consequences—from small to very significant. Hunger, pain, exposure, poverty.  Loss of identity, community, family.  Loss of hope for a good future.  All for momentary pleasure or a sense of personal freedom.

And time?  It takes time for the pain and reality of those losses and consequences to sink in.  It also takes time for most prodigals to recognize they are not really happy with their current situation and to start to look for a better approach to life—to begin to make a turn.  Finally, even when the decision to turn is real, it takes time for consequences to play out, for addictions to be overcome, for habits and patterns to reversed.

Transformation requires both time and pressure.Sometimes we grow weary under the stress and the seeming endless pain.  “Now, please, Lord.”

But our God has given us this word: “He has made everything beautiful in its time….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

So just as it takes time to change a grain of sand into an exquisite pearl, and to change a worm into a lovely butterfly, so it will take time for our loved ones to be transformed into the beautiful ones God created them to be.

And by the way, each of us needs transforming as well, in small and large places in our lives.  That change will also require time and pressure.  And in God’s economy, surely our prodigal loved ones are supplying time and pressure in great amounts, yielding newness in our lives as well.  God is a good steward and has a sense of humor. Thank you for those who have been updating us on where your loved ones are in their journeys—and where you are.  We will all keep praying together now, and will focus on these needs on June 2 with faith and power on our knees.  Invite your friends to join us.

In His time,


How about you?  What work are time and pressure doing in your life?

c2013 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation. June 2 is our Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.