Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lessons from the Flying Flowers

You call them butterflies.  I call them flying flowers.  They slay me with their delicate beauty.  When I see them alight on my flowers, I am catapulted into my imaginary Garden of Eden by the combined panoply of colors, symmetry, and fragrance.  Which leads me to the topic of flowers…

In the Mid-South it helps greatly to be cursed with stubbornness.  Otherwise how can I explain that I have refused to give up growing on roses in our clay soil and high humidity?  And shall we not forget the summer’s temperamental weather that alternates between drought and relentless heat only to be randomly punctuated with deluge-like summer rains that can take days for the soil to accept. 

The crowning insult for my flowers, and what could be the death knoll for my butterflies, is the visitation of Japanese beetles for the three full months of June, July, and August.  Japanese beetles have impeccable taste, as their favorite flowers are mine as well.  Granted, they do possess an iridescent exoskeleton but whatever loveliness they may possess pays lousy dividends as they decimate my flowers!

Most people use an insecticide, called Sevin, to control these pests that so far only torment those of us who live east of the Mississippi River.  I cannot use Sevin because I love my butterflies and honey bees.  Sevin is an indiscriminate killer, and although it is very effective, I cannot sacrifice my butterflies or bees upon the altar of my rose bushes’ health.  Thus I must settle for twice-a-day slap-downs on fifty-two rose bushes and weekly (or more applications) of neem oil, which is not nearly as effective as Sevin.  Neem oil does not harm sucking insects only chomping ones, like Japanese beetles. 

I love butterflies for so many reasons.  

Let’s start when they are in their ugly caterpillar stage.  They are a reminder to me of how I was before I believed with 100% certitude that God existed.  That was before the Lord showed me how much He loved me...even when I was dead in my sins!  I did not give God the time of day and did not even obey the Natural Law let alone His commandments.  Stubbornness incarnate…aka me.  Perhaps that still describes me, but now I attempt to direct that stubbornness towards my sanctification

Did you know that if you try to help the butterfly as it emerges from its chrysalis, thereby interrupting its struggle, that it will never be strong enough to fly?  Once we become true believers we'd like to believe that we can run the spiritual marathon without pain and struggle.  But this is not how we are sanctified.  It is only thorough great travail that we are remade in the image of Christ.  Our spiritual muscles grow as we suffer.

The butterfly gives glory to God by doing the same things over and over again.  Yes, it is in the butterfly’s nature to do so, and by simply living according to its nature, the butterfly gives glory to God.

The first two humans were made in the image and likeness of God, once God breathed an immortal soul into them. In the Hebrew, saying that someone is created in the image and likeness of a person means that they are his children.  Thus we are told in Genesis that Adam and Eve were sons and daughters of God in that first "Garden".

Once the first parents committed a very personal sin against God, that direct kinship was broken both for them and their offspring.  Yes, we are all God's creatures; the butterfly and I have that in common.  But just because one is human does not make one a child of God.  All of humanity would have to wait to become adopted sons and daughters of God for the graces that were poured out through Christ's Passion and Death, our Redemption, made available in the sacrament of Baptism.  Perhaps this does not seem politically correct to you, but God is not bound by our notions of fairness with are frequently distorted and out of alignment with God.

I relate very much to this adoption scenario because my own adoption, as an infant, that left me hungry to know who I was and to discover my biological parentage.  Eventually God used that ravenous hunger and emptiness to bring me to Himself but only after I had sunk about as low as one could go—which is the inspiration for my novel (in progress).

The butterfly trusts that when it goes from flower to flower that it will find food not poison (like Sevin).  Oh, how I wish I had such dependable trust in the goodness of God to meet my daily physical, mental, and spiritual needs!  I put on my own butterfly wings, as I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, attempting to cloak myself in the simple unquestioning trust that my little butterfly friends demonstrate.

Occasionally I find butterfly wings after my little friends have finished their lives.  I see little broken parts here and there on their wings.  They are still beautiful but they no longer look perfect.  Such is the curse of time outside the "Garden".  As we age, our physical body undergoes the metamorphosis that heralds our own mortality.  We call that swan song by despised names like wrinkles, saggy skin, grey hair, and pain.  

What about our souls? 

If we do things God’s way, our souls acquire beauty as we run through the gauntlet of our mortal life.  We can unite all our heartaches, disappointments, pains, and sorrows to the cross of Christ and ask the Father to use these very things to conform us to the image and likeness of His Son.

This is the much misunderstood process of sanctification.  Sanctification has been largely ignored in many non-Catholic Christian faith traditions.  And many Catholics, due to poor catechesis, do not understand the process of sanctification either.  I believe that the failure to understand sanctification is at the heart of Christians who support same sex marriage and abortion.  Such people, who in many cases love God deeply, have both misplaced mercy and undue trust in their own powers of spiritual discernment.  Why? Because they have no concept of sanctification through the gift of redemptive suffering!

Sanctification is that process that, as we step into immortality at the point of our deaths, enables us to understand what true beauty really is and allows us to be drawn to it!  We will have the capacity to understand and, ultimately, to be united with the beatific vision!  

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