April 16th, 2017 |
As Easter day comes to a close, I think about butterflies. They have been on my mind today. My love for these creatures runs deep within me.
It was a drab day, years ago. As I stood on the side of a cemetery hill, family and friends quietly awaited the lowering of the casket into a freshly dug grave. The elderly man, lifelessly locked inside the casket, had been a special friend. He never went to church, but I had visited him at home on more than one occasion. He had shown me his workspace where he did beautiful woodwork. I had a deep affection for him.
As the casket arrived at its final resting place beneath the surface of the hill, there to await shovels full of dirt, a brightly colored butterfly that had taken rest in the grave suddenly took flight skyward. It flew from the grave, within easy view. Butterflies, entombed in a cocoon, find a way out of confinement on their journey toward freedom. They are on a long journey.
Butterflies are my favorite symbol of resurrection. They are all about metamorphosis, renewal, and rebirth. Behold the butterfly.
The Monarch butterfly, once free from its binding, having gone through a five stage metamorphose, takes a remarkable journey from as far away as Canada, all the way to South America. In the spring, they return north. One of the incredible things about the Monarch is that it makes the journey to an unknown, distant place utilizing some inherent, yet unexplainable behavior pattern. One might say they travel, guided by a genetic faith.
I am grateful to Professor Leah D. Shade at Lexington Theological Seminary for putting me back in touch, through her writings, with Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Flight Behavior.
The book’s central character is a mother of two children, living in a poor community in the rural foothills of Appalachia. She has a serendipitous encounter with a swarm of migrating Monarch butterflies that have descended on her land, on their way back from Mexico. Called the “butterfly lady,” she has an awakening. She becomes aware of the fact that not only is her poverty-stricken family threatened by the possible loss of their home and their land, so too are the butterflies, who are losing their home to the very same antagonist, the international logging industry, here and in Mexico.
Nathanial Hawthorne made this observation: “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” That is spiritually meditative guidance for active social justice living.
There is no Easter basket full of sweet solutions to the death, destruction and political oppression we are experiencing in the world right now. Endless war and rumors of more wars are testing our faith and our commitment to peace and justice. Do we have the energy and perseverance for the work that must be done?
The Easter season, which lasts well into the spring, invites all of us, no matter our faith or beliefs, to behold the butterflies. Behold and see the lessons they teach us about taking long journeys to new places, and the persevering energy required in order to engage the struggle it takes to reach a destination. That’s what it will take from those of us who care about life. It will take persistent hope.
Take a couple of minutes to watch the video about the butterflies. Behold the butterflies. They have life saving lesson to teach us.
Entry Filed under: Fig Tree Notes Archives