Family matters

Column: Butterflies remind us to look for God in the stillness

by Jacki Corrigan

My childhood was encased in a gentle time. With no other children in the neighborhood, my playmates were anything that moved. Nature was woven into my happiness.

Mother Nature was a generous provider with an abundant supply of butterflies and lightning bugs — each brightening my days or nights.

The butterflies were graceful and beautiful as they softly danced around the giant oak tree or graced the delicate rim of a stunning tulip. The fireflies were exciting and fascinating as they lit up the darkness.

When I chased the butterflies with my net, they would most often escape, moments before capture. But later as I quietly sat under a tree, they would venture a visit to my shoulder or arm. 

I was allowed to catch my flying buddies and house them in a glass mayonnaise jar with multiple holes poked through the metal lid. Luscious greenery was provided for nourishment. I had a release rule that assured that the butterflies were home before their mom went looking for them.

To quote Nathaniel Hawthorne: “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.”

Once again I was gifted with butterflies when my husband and I were driving north on I-435 some 20 years ago.

The highway was relatively new and sparsely traveled. Suddenly before us the sky darkened in one area. As the darkness moved toward us, we saw thousands of monarch butterflies, apparently heading south for the winter. 

Because of a lack of traffic, we were able to pull off to the side and just embrace the magnificent beauty that colored a little portion of God’s world.

Many years later, I was excited to have the opportunity to take five of our younger grandchildren to a butterfly festival at a local botanical garden. I couldn’t wait to see them delight in the awesome wonder of my childhood memories. Was I in for a surprise!

We were in an enclosed portable room with a generous supply of greenery and even more generous supply of butterflies, which caused the children to freeze, due to a lack of exposure to butterflies in their suburban area. By holding quietly still, the graceful butterflies felt safe to land upon them. The children danced and hopped to shake off their flying visitors — they wanted no part of being used as landing sites for the swooping butterflies.

I am reminded that as the butterflies are pulled to stillness, so are we. I know that when my life is hectic and I am darting in every direction, there is low probability that I can open my heart fully to my God. God is not subtle: He tells me directly how I can know him, where I can find him.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).


About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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