“What this world needs is a little wonder!” There are so many themes that can be unpacked from the short film, the Butterfly Circus, that it is hard to know where to begin, but maybe beginning with wonder is a start. Set in the era of the Great Depression, this short film follows the fortunes of Will, a man born with no limbs, on his journey from despair to hope.
Will, played by the well-known life coach and public speaker Nick Vujicic, has no wonder in his life and certainly no wonder at the miracle that is his life. He lives in a fog of despair, the colors of life displayed in browns and grays. He is mocked and abused. All this changes when he meets Mr. Mendez (Eduardo Verástegui), the showman of the Butterfly Circus. Will is allowed to tag along with the Butterfly Circus and experiences his first taste of hope, light and color in his life, but he cannot join the Circus until he can find himself an act that will glorify his gift of life, rather than just display his body as a freak show.
While it is a story that clearly shows the transformation from despair to hope, ashes to beauty, ugly caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly, there is more to it than just the ‘you can do anything you want with your life’ idea. The film points beautifully to the truth of redemption. Each person in the film had a past, or a reason that they were put to one side and forgotten. We can all struggle with hurts and pains; at times it is the unbearable pain of simply being ourselves. We live in a society where the media pumps out the lie that only an unrealistic, unattainable perfection is good enough. In a well-meaning counter-response to that, there is a confusing plethora of advice about self-esteem that basically says: If only you have enough self-confidence, if only you have enough self-esteem, you can fight all these demons and live the good life. There is never any advice on how we might tangibly gain this self-confidence and so we turn to comparing ourselves against others – and inevitably despairing at who we are.
One of the most powerful moments in the film is a moment when Will is mocked by Mr. Mendez, the very man who so inspired him to begin a new life. Mendez repeats the painful taunts of Will’s old life right to his face.
“Why would you say such a thing?” Will asks, his voice breaking with hurt.
“Because you believe it,” Mendez replies.
Until we realize that we are not the lies we believe we are, or are told we are, we will never break free of our pain and find healing. But how do we do that? A very wise woman recently told me that it is hard to love yourself. In fact, it might even be impossible. But the key thing is, she said, her voice rising with the need to make the point crystal clear, if you discover who God is – and God IS Love, and you let Love Himself love you- then you have all you ever need, because you know you are loved by Love Himself.
And therein lies the wonder! Not only do we have the magnificence of letting Love Himself love us, but we also have the wonder of letting His infinite skill, workmanship if you like, transform the darkest, saddest, most painful parts of our lives into something beautiful. As sung during the Exsultet every Easter Vigil, “O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”
In asking for God to show us His love and healing, we give Him the gift of letting Him save us.
We need wonder in our lives. Our world needs wonder – wonder at the miracle of a tiny baby in the womb, wonder at the dignity of old age and maybe some wonder at the beautiful mess that we all are. For these places – the parts that we are ashamed of and wish to hide – they are the battlegrounds where Christ comes to redeem us, and the places where the Victory of the Cross can transform us once and for all.