It’s Easter weekend, and for me as a Christian, it’s the most thoughtful time of the year. I contemplate the miraculous, and see the transformation through the life of Christ from the desolation of the forty days in the desert, to the suffering of the crucifixion followed by darkness and separation, and then the triumphant lifting and light in the power of resurrection over death.
Too often, I’ve wanted to gloss over the days Christ struggled and hours of his agony in order to get to the triumphant victory. As a child at Easter, I couldn’t wait to sing with fellow church members, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” That song never fails to bring me to tears– happy tears.
This year, with all the world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been more acutely aware of suffering and of silence, of feeling separated, and at times, forsaken. No matter how surreal my life seems, both personally and corporately–adapting to sheltering-in-place and other aspects of our current reality, the one thing that keeps me grounded is nature. The constancy of our earth, and all the creatures within it, remains.
At Easter, I’m especially drawn to butterflies; they’ve been a symbol for the soul since early Christianity. Watching them in their dance-like movements above my flower bed brings me joy. In her article, “Dance Like the Butterfly,” Trish Phillips notes that Native Americans see butterflies as a “symbol of change, joy and color. The exquisite butterfly was considered a miracle of transformation and resurrection.”
I don’t often think of them in this way, but butterflies are insects. It’s only when I see them in their caterpillar stage, their ugly phase, that I remember. This photo of the caterpillar strikes fear in me because it reminds me of the hornworms that were on tobacco leaves when we harvested our crop. The hornworms hurt when you happened to squeeze your hand around one while ‘handing’ tobacco in summers on the farm.
But when I look at the phases of a butterfly’s development, I have to accept that this ugly phase is as critical as all the others in the life cycle of the butterfly. It’s a chubby, middle-school period of growing and eating and later shedding your skin that forms a cocoon of darkness and growth. During that time within the confines of the walls of the cocoon, a colorful butterfly is being formed.
Phillips provides a list of qualities of insects, including butterflies, that helps them to succeed as a group. The sixth on the list speaks to me at this time:
They undergo multiple changes (metamorphosis) to facilitate and carry on life.
My personal life has been nothing if not filled with change over the past year; all of our lives have been filled with drastic changes over the course of this pandemic. Phillips notes that the traits of insects can be viewed symbolically as “ideas to assist humans to be more successful within their own lives.” I do think that all creatures have things they can show us– a lesson from observation, gentle in its manner yet effective in its delivery.
“Metamorphosis is the magic that insects can teach us. Change ensures growth. We have to shed the old before we can come into the new.” Trish Phillips
When I look at the video of the monarch’s development (provided at the end), I think of my own journey through life. And to bring the focus in closer, I look at my journey through the past year including the past month of the pandemic. I know I’ve struggled with wanting to get through things faster– without having to wait for my former self to shed, without the days of dark growth in a cocoon.
Like Easter morning, I want to sing the triumphant, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” The power of that lifting is like seeing the monarch in the video when its small wings become filled so the butterfly is in full glory.
But perhaps I need more time in the dark cocoon, like the endless days that Christ was in the tomb. In the fullness of time, Christ resurrected, and we’ll have our metamorphosis into what we’re to be in our next phase of life.
May we all feel the resurrection power of Easter, the moving forward of metamorphosis that is intended for all of God’s creation.
Blessings to You All.
Article by T Phillips http://www.pure-spirit.com/more-animal-symbolism/611-butterfly-symbolism
How About You?
How is your life like that of a butterfly? I challenge you to watch this video of the monarch and think of how the butterfly’s development reminds you of your own.
You’ll have to click it and then click the option to see it on the Youtube site.