The day after hurricane Irma, I marveled at a swallowtail butterfly gliding through my front yard; a graceful, welcome reprieve from the harsh winds of the day before. It was huge, soaring and totally unexpected. This isn’t the first time a butterfly has blessed my day.
Happiness is as a Butterfly
In the early seventies, pastel posters floated around everywhere declaring “Happiness is as a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” One of my best friends gave me a small rock with a stone butterfly atop it because she knew how much I loved the bidding to sit quietly and coax the butterfly. I kept that rock for over forty five years, smiling every time I remembered the person and the poster behind the gift. A few years ago, when the butterfly came unglued and was lost, I gave up the rock and replaced it with an engraving in my heart from Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…” I have come to understand that he is my true happiness.
Just prior to starting the fifth grade my oldest son, Jahan, received a postcard from his teacher with an assignment to research and deliver a class presentation on the monarch butterfly. Monitoring my son’s project gave me a great appreciation for the only butterfly known to migrate as birds do to winter homes and fly back en masse for summers.
Together we colored a huge poster with multitudes of monarchs and I began noticing every monarch that ever graced our garden marveling at their trek, sometimes as far as three thousand miles! That such a delicate creature could survive the arduous journey amazed me and I figured there was a lesson in perseverance and trust I should remember.
One of my father’s favorite passages was Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” I think he could just have easily been talking about butterflies.
Butterflies fight to emerge from their cocoon- without the struggle, they don’t build the strength in their wings to fly when they break free. Some years ago, I was struggling to get through the weariness and burdens of too much work, not enough time, and feelings that life would always be like this. But God is so good; he gave me something I didn’t even know I needed.
I was walking out my front door one early morning, reluctantly heading off to work. As I stepped off my porch, a magnificent monarch hovered in front of me, rested on a nearby bush and took flight again. I stopped and immersed myself in the present moment, thanking God for the pure beauty and joy of a simple butterfly. And then, I was peaceful.
“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
A calmness stayed with me as I realized the battle to be free, to soar above weariness will always be present, because we live in an imperfect world. But along the way, we can learn from the butterfly who doesn’t give up the fight to transform, to fly, even if only for a while. I thank God for the struggles that allow the breaking free and the soaring against a vast sky. The prize is winged flight and the reprieve of sweet nectar on the journey.
I long to fly
short-lived though soaring be
from embryo to crawling
then cocoon before the world I see.
Too much to bear,
the daily battle tires me.
Death sure to come if I but pause before
emergence sets me free.
This morning, transformation is in grasp
as night skies yield to light of day
and brilliant colors spread their wings at last.
Until they fall,
give me a sip to drink along the way.