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TRUE STORY

Butterfly Man

By T. Suzanne Eller
Guest Writer

CBN.comI thought I was losing my mind, going psycho. I never told people what was going on inside of me. I only shared the surface stuff that was evident for all to see. I skipped classes in school because I didn’t see the point in going. I laid in bed and blocked my door so my mother couldn’t come in. She eventually gave up, but I had already given up on myself.

While I was at home, I started cutting myself. It made me feel better in some weird way. I wrote things in my arm with a razor as if my flesh were a billboard for all to see my craziness. My mother freaked out when I came out of my room with my arms covered in bandages, swaddled under my long sleeves. Then I moved to my stomach because there was more room to write.

My mind swerved from thought to thought, plans of hurting myself to pay back those I loved with pain. I hoped they would realize what they lost and that others would look down on them for not being there for me.

My only outlet during this time of my life was art. It was a passion, and I painted and created projects on the potter’s wheel. Ceramics was the only reason I attended school.

Some days I loaded up my easel, paper, paint, and water bottles and drove far away to a wooded area. I walked so deep into the woods that I lost myself in the scenery. Though it was only 40 degrees outside, I sat and painted in the middle of nowhere. I was content to be alone with my art. It was calm and no one knew I was there. I could paint and listen to the stillness that surrounded me.

It was my secret place and there I could be happy. Not full happiness, not like laughing, but peaceful. If I wanted to scream, I could. I could yell and cry as loud as I wanted, and I didn’t have to explain why.

I became a hermit. Though I didn’t talk much before, my silence became ridiculous. The strange thing is that I continued to be involved in school. I was in the marching band. I was in the Guard, and I took it very seriously. I practiced for hours, building up my strength and tolerance.

I had friends, including my best friend, Christina. I shared with her the details of my life and she couldn’t believe it, but I understood. I had trouble accepting it myself.

At the end of my senior year, I enrolled in college to study art. I traveled to St. Louis with big plans, imagining how I would arrive at this new place and how everything would be great. I believed that my life would be different.

It didn’t take long to realize that moving did not solve my problems. I had very few friends. I hated my job and school wasn’t what I expected. I was terribly homesick, not for the "home" part but for the woods, my place of peace. I drove four hours to Bloomington every other weekend and then four hours back to St. Louis just so I could be in my special place for a few hours each week.

I was miserable at school. I quit my job. I started skipping classes and closed myself away from others again.

Same old, same old. Back to my previous life.

One night I was writing a term paper. As I sat in front of the computer, I thought about how lame it was that I was doing nothing. I decided to see a movie, so I drove to "The Loop," which is a downtown area in St. Louis.

I decided to burn time while I waited for the movie to begin. I was walking down the street when I saw two girls in front of me. A man stood on the sidewalk and held out a flyer. They pushed it away. I marched up and took the flyer since those two girls had acted so rudely to the guy. I figured that he was promoting a band or something. I took the flyer from him and started to walk away when he said, "May I ask you a question? What is your relationship with God?"

I stared at him, and then I laughed because his question sounded really funny. I didn’t understand how anyone could have a "relationship" with God! The guy said his name was Jamie, and then he introduced me to another person named Chuck. More of their friends joined us. For the next two hours I stood on the street and we talked about God.

I couldn’t believe it. I was raised as a Christian, but I never felt about it as I did this night. I looked at each one in the group of people and studied them, wondering what it was that intrigued me about them. There were about six or seven people standing in the cold talking about God. They each seemed to have a beautiful attitude, peaceful and caring.

Jamie rubbed his hands together and warmed them. "Brooke, do you want to accept Christ?" he asked.

"Stop talking to those guys!" someone shouted and interrupted our conversation. I stared at a guy that I knew who stood not far away. He had walked by earlier and asked me to come and hang out with his friends. He was not a good person, and I definitely didn’t want to spend time with him and his friends. When I said no, he had waited close by and listened to every word that Jamie spoke.

"Do you want to accept Christ?" Jamie asked again.

Chuck joined him. "It’s up to you, Brooke."

"You don’t have to listen to them," the guy shouted. His friends joined in and started mocking Jamie and Chuck. My natural response was to yell at him to shut up, but I actually felt sorry for him.

I nodded. "Yes, but will you pray with me?" I asked.

The whole time that I prayed, the guy and his friends cursed me out. I clenched my eyes shut and peace flooded me. The words of those who stood in the background and mocked me helped me to understand what I was walking away from. I thought, They are still stuck, but I found my answer.

Soon after I was saved, I found a project I had created titled "Butterfly Man." It was an assignment for my graphic arts class. "Butterfly Man" had the body of a butterfly, but the face was a composite of several different graphic files of men’s features. As I studied it, I almost dropped the piece. The face looked like Jamie—the man who had stopped to share his faith with me on the street. Same goatee. Same face shape and coloring.

Was God reaching out to me even before I met my new friends?

I took the portrait to Jamie and he framed it. "Isn’t it awesome, Brooke?" he said. "Butterflies are a symbol of new beginnings."

There are still reminders of my past. Sometimes if I’m really cold, or if I’ve just come out of the shower, I can see the faint outline of the word "Why?" that I carved on my forearm. That was a question I asked when I had no answers.

Today it is a reminder that my scars are healed—in more ways than one.


"Butterfly Man, " is by Brooke Shewmaker as told to T. Suzanne Eller and is excerpted from the book Real Teens, Real Stories, Real Life (RiverOak Publishers) by T. Suzanne Eller. You can find out more about Suzie at http://daretobelieve.org or email her at tseller@daretobelieve.org.

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