I've never liked butterflies. They've always kinda creeped me out but I've found that people think you're some kind of monster if you admit that you don't like them. It's like saying you don't like sunshine or rainbows. Sure, they're pretty and it's cool how they emerge from cocoons, but really they're just colorful moths masquerading themselves as if they weren't flying bugs. And I hate flying bugs. I cringe and do a little internal freak out when they flutter and fly too close to me, flashing their colorful wings way too near to my face. I sense your judgment but I'm being honest here: butterflies, moths, bees, wasps- they're all the same in my book. And even though I want to, society won't permit me to swat these obnoxiously beautiful butterflies away. Because everyone hates bees and wasps but I've found people have an exceptionally low tolerance for butterfly-haters. Truth be told, I feel the same way about lady bugs. The only thing I like about lady bugs is that 1992 soccer movie with Rodney Dangerfield. But I digress. Lady bugs, butterflies: I'm on to you. The world might admire your beauty and grace but I see you for what you really are: dirty, nasty, flying bugs with a little splash color. S0 please, stay away from me.
There's another reason I hate butterflies: I used to suffer from a gnarly case of performance anxiety. It was the worst when I ran track. When I think back to the year I did sprints, I mainly remember two things: 1) The first time I ran the 400, I stopped at the wrong finish line thinking I had won and 2) On the day of a meet, I felt like I was about to hurl from the moment I woke up until I was done running. Those insufferable, vomit-inducing butterflies are what made me quit track my senior year. I was a bit disappointed in myself because I felt like such a quitter because, well, I was one. But save your judgments for someone else; track was not my thing, and I really hate butterflies.
The butterflies also made their torturous appearance before basketball games, but the joy that came with playing and being on a team enabled me to conquer those pesky pesticides. I developed a bunch of routines, all designed to help me master my anxiety and kill those awful butterflies. Why all this butterfly talk?
On Wednesday we played one of the biggest games of the year and that fluttering feeling of anxiety returned to haunt me. After we won on Saturday night, I awoke Sunday morning with the butterflies- already anticipating Wednesday night's game. I realize that four days of feeling anxious about a basketball game is kinda silly but I really wanted to win. It was the CIF quarterfinal game against a team much taller and faster than we are and it was a home game which meant the gym would be packed. I awoke on Sunday already feeling that awful sensation of fluttering wings and I was forced to resort to my old methods of butterfly destruction:
1) Consider the "worst case scenario." This always used to work for me but when I tried it with my girls, I may have made them more nervous. Worst case scenario in this case: we play terribly in front of a packed gym and lose and lots of people think we're overrated and awful. In my head, that didn't sound so bad but in the heads of teenage girls, this thought terrified them. Great job, coach. It didn't terrify me as much because of method number 2:
2) Remember whose opinion matters. This is easy to say and very hard to believe and apply. I'd love to say that I don't care what others think of me as a coach, but it's not true. I do care. I want them to think that I'm a basketball genius (which I'm not) and I want them to think my team is incredible (which we are... in certain ways). I often remind my girls that God doesn't care if they miss a lay-up or turn the ball over; He cares about our effort and our attitudes and those are much easier to control than making tough shots. If we truly are only seeking His approval and are only concerned with His opinion, those butterflies don't stand a chance.
3) Remember that His opinion of me is not based on my performance. I wish I could say that my motives are always pure- that I teach and coach only for the glory of God. I try to. But it's a battle. A battle I must wage every day because every day I try to steal the glory for myself. It's a fine line because I should take pride in the areas God has gifted me. I should be thankful for those gifts and use them for His kingdom. But those gifts and abilities are sneaky. They often weasel their way in and try to convince me that they are the reason I am loved by the king; that they are the reason I am loved by anyone. I continually fall prey to their tricks and find myself trying to earn God's favor by my performance. Thus, I continually need to be reminded that His love is unconditional- that He can love me no more and He can love me no less than He already does. In my darkest moments, my heart refuses to accept this. In my brightest, this thought fills my heart with such joy and peace that there is no room for anxiety.
4) Remember whose I am and who I serve. I'm afraid I've often made God too small. I often forget the "big picture" of a big God and that is when my anxiety is at its worst. When I am reminded of God's character, butterflies flee. He knows my heart and knows all about my silly worries and about the silly butterflies that fluttered for four days. Looking back, I see how in those four days, He was constantly whispering to me, constantly reminding me of who He is, constantly killing butterflies.
In church three of my former students led worship and they were so incredible that I felt like I was in the throne room and was able to worship with total abandon. I've found it's impossible to worship and be anxious at the same time; it's like trying to frown and laugh simultaneously. As we sang Phil Wickham's "You're Beautiful," any butterflies that had accompanied me to church had fallen down dead.