In mid October, I attended a women’s retreat led by women from my church. One of the speakers, Lisa, a woman that I’ve known for over 10 years, was sharing an experience about how God reminded her of his love during a particularly difficult time in her life. As she went about her day, she began noticing flowers. Not just any flowers, but yellow flowers with a black center. Sometimes the flowers were sunflowers, other times wildflowers, and sometimes they were printed on t-shirts, bags or in pictures. Every time Lisa saw one of these flowers (which was often), she was reminded of God’s love for her. It was as simple as that. God notices her and he loves her and as a symbol of his love, he sends her flowers.
As she was speaking, I was reminded of a time when I went alone on a silent retreat. I had gone hiking and as I was moving from place to place, I discovered that a butterfly seemed to be following me. For probably an hour, the butterfly was my companion. At the end of the day, I sat on a bench and spent some time in prayer and journaling and discovered, once again, that a butterfly had joined me. In that moment, God was more tangible to me than I had remembered in quite some time. Lisa’s story of the yellow flowers brought my encounter with the butterfly to my mind.
The next morning, I was standing in the church office, speaking with several people and a magazine caught my eye. The cover was a photo of a swarm of butterflies. I smiled as I thought back to the day before, when I identified the butterfly as an experience of God’s presence several years earlier. The next day, I saw a moth as I walked into the Student Center to go to lunch. I laughed as I thought of the fact that it wasn’t quite a butterfly, but that a moth was the next best thing! On Tuesday, I had a meeting with my District Superintendent and would you believe what she was wearing on her lapel? A painted butterfly pin! I began to put together all of my “butterfly sightings” and thought that maybe, just maybe God was sending me a little message.
You see, I’m not usually one to “look for signs” or read too much into what is happening at the moment, but I most definitely believe in a God who cares about each of us individually and communicates with us. I know that God loves me, but sometimes I suppose that I, like Lisa, tend to get overly busy and distracted and feel lonely and need a reminder of God’s love. On Wednesday, my suspicions that this may be a part of God’s plan were confirmed as I went to speak to a woman that occasionally attends our chapel services. As I spoke to her, I noticed that she, too, was wearing a pin: a painted butterfly! I almost laughed out loud and as I did, I remembered that Reinhold Niebuhr said that laughter is the beginning of a prayer. I decided to thank God, right then and there, for the little ways that he was showing me that he loves me…I know in big ways that God loves me—I know the joy of being a Christian, I have everything that I need, I have a strong sense of calling, I have friends and family that show me love—but the butterflies began to minister to me in a very intimate way. The next day, I was reading a friends’ blog from several months earlier when I happened to see pictures of her family at a butterfly farm. On Friday, the butterfly was on a student’s t-shirt. On Saturday evening, I realized that I had not yet seen a butterfly. I was coming back from the grocery store and listening to the radio when the DJ spoke about how he used to dismiss people’s stories of “weird” things being God’s voice but he had come to realize that God could speak through anything, when just then, my headlights caught the side of a house that had 3 painted wooden butterflies attached to the side of the house. If I had any intellectualized skeptic left in me, that soon disappeared!
Over the course of an entire week, a butterfly had been present with me in some form or fashion every single day. I began to think back through all that was happening in my life: I was entering a time in my life that was particularly stressful, a time when I was looking for God’s guidance and strength in a new way and somehow the vulnerability of the butterfly has become a gift from God to encourage me through these difficult days. Would you believe that every single day for 6 weeks, I saw a butterfly? It’s true! Perhaps my butterflies were sent to give me that extra little bit of encouragement during a particularly difficult 6 weeks. Perhaps there have been butterflies all along, but I’ve been too busy to notice. Perhaps there is another explanation. However, I choose to believe that God was sending me a message that isn’t too different than the message that he sends to each of us, if we would only have the ears to hear it. That message is this: I love you. I notice you. I’m with you. I will give you strength. Be not afraid.
P.S. One of my butterfly sightings during that 6 weeks was the cover of the book that is shown above. I was examining a book catalog and spied the little butterfly in the picture. And then I read the title of the book!