Butterflies Are Free
Spring knocked gently on my door, and I awoke to the warble of birds on a tree. The long, cold stretch had suddenly disappeared, and there was a freshness about the air. Yes, new life, I thought as I watched the buds about to burst open on the trees and bushes. Stepping out of the purple of Lent and into the pastel shades of Easter brought me a new joy. I found myself sitting in the season of hope, of birthing beyond the blues of yesterday.
The bees appeared buzzing around for nectar. They heralded summer with the caterpillars close on their heels. Who could have imagined that the creeping caterpillar would cocoon itself for approximately two weeks, before it appeared as a colorful butterfly! Ah, butterflies are free, I thought, as I watched one fly around. What an ascent from the ground to the air in a short time!
We are often sadly trapped in cocoons of our own making. All kinds of fears can cripple us, yet in the Bible, we are told over a hundred times to “be not afraid.” God reassures us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” in Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5, and Deuteronomy 31:8. Those words are comforting, but we need to be set free.
In order to be spiritually free, we have to get rid of the baggage, and consciously release what holds us captive. We live like we are still in bondage. Our repeated sins keep us bound. Paul tells the Ephesians to “put off” the old, corrupted self, and “put on” the new self. (Ephesians 4:22-24). We are invited to shed the coat of anger, lies, bitterness, rage, and put on truthfulness, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. As we die to self, we can rise to “walk in the newness of life.” (Romans 6:4).
The question to ask ourselves is, “Do we truly want to be free?” It is hard work to get rid of old patterns of behavior, and let go of creature comforts. The rich, young man in the 10th chapter of Mark’s Gospel went away sad, because he could not let go of his possessions. In a sense they possessed him. He struggled, and ultimately couldn’t surrender his material possessions to be spiritually free. We need to practice Kenosis, the Greek word for self emptying, so that we can come closer to Christ.
Jesus told his disciples to take nothing for the journey, to travel light. This begs the question, “When does the tourist become a pilgrim?” The answer is so appropriate – when you lose your luggage. Bishop Robert Barron invites us all to become detached from wealth, pleasure, power and honor. St. Ignatius of Loyola did just that after reading the Imitation of Christ and lives of the saints, while recuperating from his wounds. His dreams about winning glory in battle changed dramatically to doing glorious things for Christ. He found a new freedom, and worked tirelessly for God’s kingdom to grow.
A definite key to gaining freedom is to forgive. St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of Sudan, is one of many who forgave her tormentors. She was kidnapped as a child, bought and sold, beaten and abused, treated as an outcast because of her African background, but once she encountered Christ, she became a Catholic, a nun, and eventually a saint. She said, “If I were to meet those slave traders that abducted me and those who tortured me, I’d kneel down and kiss their hands, because, if it had not been for them, I would not have become a Christian and a religious woman.”
Catherine Doherty talked about spreading the Gospel without compromise. That can happen when we gain a new freedom through Centering Prayer. In praying this way, we are saying yes to the presence and action of God. Recent neuroscience suggests that as we let go of what we are clinging to, mentally and emotionally, actual changes happen in our neural wiring.
The famous singer Andy Williams sang a song that echoes what freedom is all about.
Born free as free as the wind blows As free as the grass grows Born free to follow your heart. Live free and beauty surrounds you The world still astounds you Each time you look at a star. Stay free where no walls divide you You’re free as the roaring tide So there’s no need to hide. Born free and life is worth living But only worth living‘cause you’re born free.
As I carried my two year old grandchild, she pointed up, and tried to say “butterfly.” Then she slipped out of my arms running freely, and in awe I said to myself, “Butterflies are free.”