My last foster son told me that my spirit animal was a tyrannosaurus rex, and I couldn’t help but laugh at his accuracy. I definitely have the sinister eyes, the thick, sturdy legs and tiny arms, and that destroy-everything-before-it-destroys-you roar. I came out of the womb this way, with forceps and a scream. I am a fighter, and I have always been proud of this toughness, these sharp teeth and this reptilian hide.
But lately, I have been dreaming of butterflies.
Fragile, yellow butterflies.
I’ve never admired butterflies for their strength. They can die in a child’s fist. They have no will of their own. They cannot fight the wind, so they must bend to its will. They are constantly readjusting their wings, their sails, to float on the whims of the wind. If they seek clover and the wind pushes them away from it, they must alter their course to find new.
I would rather be the wind than a butterfly.
In spite of this, I have been praying for signs of hope for many years now, and I feel like butterflies are my answers. Every time I feel like I have lost hope, I see one: usually yellow, and that’s all well and good. Butterflies are pretty, yes, but they’re also weak.
A mere token sign.
We got a new foster placement this past week--a seven-year-old girl who loves to be outside. She collects rocks and loves hummingbirds. I took her and one of her friends on a nature walk the other day, she managed to catch a yellow butterfly.
The act caught me off guard.
The butterfly did not move. It sat, willingly, in her open palm. It could have moved, but it did not. She carried that butterfly into the house and put it in a jar and named it Daisy, and it allowed all of these things to happen. It could have flown away--it had the wings to do so--but it did not.
I’ve been thinking a lot about butterflies and the hope they were trying to show me since, and my opinion on them has changed rather dramatically.
In seeing their beauty, their fragility, their willful compliance with the forces of nature, it is easy to forget that they were once something completely different.
These creatures had allowed nature to take its course. They had submitted to a will that was not their own. They had allowed themselves to undergo a hideous, painful transformation, and they had survived that transformation and emerged a new and beautiful creation. And because they had survived it, they could fully surrender to the will that brought that transformation to pass, knowing that all things worked for their good. Even the ugly things.
Especially the ugly things.
So they allow the wind to take them where it must, even if it blows them off their intended course.
They really are quiet reminders of hope. They come as flashes of yellow against the wash of green outside my kitchen window, and I always look up and glance out when I sense their presence, like hope itself is calling me to raise my head, to fly with the wind and find beauty in where it takes me instead of fighting it to fly where I think is best.
This is a different kind of strength, the strength of a butterfly. It is a strength I had never considered, but it is a strength I am hoping to learn. I hope to someday emerge from the chrysalis of my suffering transformed into something beautiful and flexible, willing to fly on the breath of spirit and land in the hands of a child.
And perhaps this is a strength even greater and more powerful than the roar and stomp of a tyrannosaurus rex.