|  Blog Post   |  A breath

A breath

Life, as we knew, is over. 

It can feel scary and dark in the overwhelming unknown. 

As I was failing miserably at practicing my Sabbath this weekend, because my wired for safety and “please keep me comfortable” brain thinks numbing out with social media and TV actually helps, I kept feeling pulled to my place in scripture. Finally, at the end of the day, when a friend demanded over Marco Polo that I hit my knees and pray because she was worried about me, I remembered I’ve written on this place in scripture before.

I’ve written about it in my own book.

A book that I completed forever ago that has been sitting on my desk all this time, as I wait to feel what God wants me to do with it.

So, I read the chapter.

And for whatever reason, one or many that I may never get to know in this life, I felt the nudge to share it with you during this time of what feels like nearly impossible disappointment, fear, and loss.

And so here it is, a partial chapter from my “only God knows” when and how future book Marvel Undone. For a little background, this is a book that takes the reader through the monarch lifecycle alongside ten of the most significant lies that hold us back from knowing the loving character of God. Pelia is our main character, a monarch butterfly, her name is Hebrew and means Marvel of God.

Side note: if your children (or you, let’s be honest) want to learn more, I have posted three butterfly classes on my YouTube channel. In the least it is about 40 minutes that your children will be entertained with safe content while you work or breathe or watch alongside with them in their wonder. The videos can be viewed here.


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Before Pelia joins this world as the black and orange butterfly everyone loves, she first must surrender to the butterfly soup of her own chrysalis, which she’s had inside her whole life. Life as a caterpillar is finished, and yet, her first flight is only on the other side of a messy darkness.

It is her own complicated gray or what I call The And

The messy middle, the mucky place that exists between two opposing emotions, situations, seasons, or spaces. The space between the dark and the light, the happy and the sad, the grief and the joy, the surrender and obedience, the space that Jesus knows all too well Himself.

It is my favorite place in scripture. Jesus in the garden. Jesus agonizing in the garden, to be exact. Jesus choosing Love and being obedient to what must be done. 

It’s my favorite place because it is the place I met Jesus, and I saw myself.

The story is in three of the four gospels (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42). 

Two simple and emotionally loaded statements:

“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mark 14:36)

Scripture indicates Jesus prays this prayer three different times.

I agonized over these statements, alongside, with, for, and because of Jesus.

I mean come on, in one sentence He is asking His Father to take away this destiny, to stop the struggle, to fix this, He is basically saying, “I don’t want to do this, Dad!” And then that very next statement with no transition and what appears to hardly be even a breath He says, “I trust you, let’s do this.”

Wait, what?

How much time passed between those sentences?

What was Jesus thinking?

Better yet, what was He feeling?

One of my pastors literally said to me as I was wrestling through this piece, “Justine, there isn’t a whole lot written on how Jesus felt, just His actions and His quotes. I think people didn’t want to assume His feelings.”

True and decent point pastor.


True, we don’t see many feeling words in scripture, and yet we see the scene, His actions, and His words.

And, this therapist by trade knows enough to know that our words and actions are very fair assessments of our feelings!

Jesus prayed harder, fervently, and was in such agony sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood. He tells Peter, James, and John, his soul is, depending on the translation, overwhelmed, grieved, sorrowful, and even so far as crushed in the NLT.

I mean there He is in the garden, knowing what is coming for Him and literally asking His Father for a way out. 

And, in the weirdest and somedays toughest thing to wrap our brains around, He is the Father.

Pause. Mind still is blown by that one.

And, He knows this is the only way to love and save the world. 

It’s brutal. It’s gonna hurt. And it is scary.

And, He must. 

He will obey. 

Because He trusts.

Could it be that Jesus felt both fear and faith in that moment?

There is a lot of The And in and in between those two statements that Jesus pleads with the Father in the garden.

And, I know what many of you may be thinking, especially those of you who grew up in the church or perhaps have walked with Jesus (knowingly) for a long time… do not fear – “the Bible says so!” 

If we have faith, we cannot fear.

He commands us, over and over, to not fear, to take heart, to be courageous, to be still.

Do not fear, my daughter, my son.

Is this true, though?

Is this really realistic of this life here on earth?

The world where He tells us we will have trouble.

And there in the garden, the God who loved us enough to enter the story himself, to suffer and die as His Son for us, I believe felt both fear and faith. 

It is this moment in scripture, in three of the four gospels just in case one wasn’t enough, that we must receive both as a gift and as an example.

This perfect human, also fully God, not only loved us enough to suffer and die for us, He loves us enough to walk it all first.

He’s Jesus, and in that moment, He agonized too. It is nearly impossible to read that scene, times three, and not feel the weight of Jesus’ fear and even perhaps what had to have felt as completely and utterly alone.

Scripture doesn’t allow us to stay there very long though, two sentences back to back, simply separated by a space and a period in each gospel.

A breath.

It is in the struggle and the fear that we can know that God not only walked this all first, He also knows what this walk is like. He himself has agonized and struggled. He himself felt fear and faith in the exact same moment.

He knows.

He sits beside us with our pain.

Because He knows.

That very next breath after the fear?

The part we must never forget, though?

Jesus felt the fear, leaned into the Love, and obeyed anyway.

The fear didn’t determine His choices. He didn’t choose to stay stuck. He chose to feel the fear, take a breath, lean into Love, and obey.

He felt His fear, His Father turning His back on Him, and still, He chose to believe in the character of His loving Father. It is that moment in the garden that Jesus, in His fully human self, did something very different than so many of us do here in this life. 

He didn’t partner with evil. He didn’t make an agreement with the enemy. 

He didn’t buy the lie that He was alone. That God was unfair and punishing.

He didn’t allow evil to chain him to the lies of bondage. Instead, He held onto, leaned into, and fully received the Love of the Father. 

I don’t want to do this, and I trust you.

How much does this describe our own times of struggle? When we are floundering in a dark season or waiting season, or simply, a shit season, we know the only way to the other side is to keep going and to keep trusting Him. 


By the time Pelia is hanging upside down in preparation for her pupation, her insides have already started to become squishy undoneness. 

The only way to her flight is through the dark.

Not much unlike us, the only way to the other side is often through the dark.

God commands us to fear not, and when this is used as a way to minimize the struggle and pain we suffer in this world when it is used as a quick fix or to dismiss something that doesn’t fit into this perfect Christian life, it doesn’t reflect God’s Love or the grace of Christ.

That moment in the garden is the moment of The And. The moment we put down the simple answers and black and white thinking. The moment we have as a gift and as an example that this life, especially this life with faith, is anything but simple.

It is messy.

It is complicated.

It is holy.

It is The And.

I think Jesus felt fear and uncertainty in the garden, and right alongside it, He knew and leaned into Love.

And then, He trusted Papa, and He chose us. 

He chose Love and obeyed.


Justine is a Licensed Professional Counselor with more than 25 years of experience in traditional mental health and personal and professional development. Justine has been certified in the work of Dr. Brené Brown for ten years. Justine is the author of eleven books, including five Amazon bestsellers covering subjects such as infertility, faith, and grief. She has been honored to do two TEDx Talks, The Permission of the And and The Donut Effect. She travels nationally and presents virtually to global audiences delivering keynotes, workshops, retreats, and trainings on topics such as leadership, courage, resilience, mental health, preventing and coping with burnout, and courageous and curious conversation, especially in creating cultures of belonging and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Justine lives in St. Louis with her husband Chad, their three dogs, and for four months of the year hundreds of monarch and swallowtail butterflies.

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