Thursday, July 26, 2012

A butterfly effect

Chalk them up to my lengthening "pros" list for Uganda: the butterflies. When John and I first traveled to check out Uganda--most of the butterflies being those knocking around in our stomachs--I remember looking over some low hills in the outskirts of Jinja and Mbale, and blinking. Were they moving?

Nope. Butterflies. Everywhere. Most there were small and white, hovering in little arcs over the multicolored hues of the lantana. I had never seen so many butterflies in one place in my entire life. The entire field was alive.

Fast forward a few months later. Last September and October was a particularly painful part of our journey out of the U.S. Maybe this will reveal where my treasure is/was, but sorting through every one of belongings to sell--my kids' toys, my educational stuff for them, our books, other possessions, choosing to sell at garage-sale prices (10%, maybe?), trash/give away, or store in the limited space we had (do we really need to keep that?), or take in the bags we'd set aside--was mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. Friends can testify. I was toast.

It was a gift of God that the butterflies were hatching just then in Arkansas. Every day in that two-week valley, I believe God gave me a little present: a butterfly sighting--while I patted little flourescent stickers on my sons' bikes, wiped my forehead after carting another load to the trash, or stretched out tape over another cardboard box. With all their associations of new life, of pushing from a dark, crispy cocoon to spread its color and fly, the illustration was not lost on me. Butterflies, to me, are a reminder of faith followed by startling, unanticipated (at least to the butterfly!) beauty and liberty.

And these flighty little insect are one of the edenic parts of living here. Many of these jewel-toned species sport large, indulgent wings. But even the tiny, periwinkle-colored ones still turn my head. They remind me of the gracious hope God gave me, and still does.

As melodramatic as it may sound, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised--and initially dismayed--this week, which was one of those low weeks in the scheme of things. At separate times I found two butterflies the size of C.'s hand beating their wings against the glass in our house. We have iron grates on our windows. The butterflies each became caught in the middle, and their frantic frustration was evident. As W. and I watched, we knew: If they didn't get out, their struggle would eventually slow. They would die.

So imagine the privilege of softly cupping my hands around those black, white, and royal blue wings, or the brown speckled ones with the notch broken out of one side, feeling them tap nervously on my fingers. Imagine the feeling of victory as my son watched, each of us walking to the porch, and--one, two, three!--pushing that butterfly into the air, where it dipped, swirled, and fled, mystified, twice freed.

There was a satisfaction in that opening of my hands. Sometimes, freedom is a lot harder to find for people here. But God still boasts that power to simply open His broad, kind hands.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

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