Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Bent-Winged Peace

In the golden afternoon of the last week of summer, a flash of orange movement caught my eye as I toweled off from the day's hydrotherapy session. A monarch butterfly had perched on the bisque expanse of pool deck. Open, closed, open, closed, went its wings, slowly and rhythmically.

How odd, I thought. Why would it land there, so exposed to danger and even our dog, when blooming plants and its favored milkweed were only feet away? Slowly I stepped down and approached, trying with all my might not to spook my little friend.

From a few feet away, I could see something was not right about the wings. A little closer, and a little closer, and oh! Too close.

The butterfly tried to fly away from me but couldn't. Instead, she skittered across the deck into the pool. As she labored unsuccessfully to fly out, I looked around in a panic for something light enough and long enough to help. In the end, I grabbed the grabber I use to reach the pool thermometer. As gently as I could, I slid it into the water just underneath her and waited for her to climb on securely before I carefully pulled her out.

Now the defect was obvious. Her wings were bent like dog-eared pages. Of course the poor dear couldn't fly!

Hoping against hope that she had recently emerged from her chrysalis and her wings simply hadn't had time to expand and harden, I placed her on the milkweed where she would be safer and have nectar for strength. That evening, Amore fished her out of the pool again. And again the next morning. Her wings remained bent. Do butterflies have birth defects? Did something interfere with her eclosure?

We kept her as safe as we could for as long as we could, until we couldn't find her any longer. We groan with Creation in the knowledge that she likely became food for some larger creature, perhaps one of the murder of crows that haunt our block.

Earth has many sorrows, beloved, but you hardly need me to tell you so. Some are as light as a butterfly wing; some are as heavy as a granite boulder that could crush you if the Lord didn't hold it back.

Earth has many sorrows,

Many and variegated sorrows--

Lame butterflies, lame wives,

Fractured minds and bodies, relationships and promises,

Paychecks landing in purses with holes (or not coming at all),

Thorns and thistles frustrating our labors,

Churches wandering from Truth or disrupting Love with petty quarrels,

Prodigals remaining in the far country,

Disasters, disease, dissension, and despair:

Earth has many sorrows. Where is peace to be found in this groaning world, where not even butterflies escape the pain Adam and his sons and daughters have brought about?

Peace is the benediction resting on those who are not offended by Christ (Matt. 11:6; Luke 7:23). Peace is the beatitude for those who look about at all the brokenness in the world-- the lame who don't walk, the ill still unhealed, the wombs that do not bear, the tornadoes that don't change course, the thorns not removed, all the light and momentary afflictions that pave our path toward glory--

For those who look about at all these things,

Yet still confess, "He is good, and His love endures forever."

Peace is the dividend reaped from treasuring God's promises in our hearts:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28–29, ESV).

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV).

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10, ESV). 

Peace derives from the trustworthy character of the person of the Triune God:

God who never lies;

...in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word... (Titus 1:2–3, ESV).


God who cannot lie;

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul... (Hebrews 6:17–19, ESV).

God who keeps steadfast love in abundance. 

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7, ESV).

Peace leans its weight upon the power of God:

God who spun galaxies, oceans, butterflies, and birches into existence with the words of His mouth (Genesis 1-2);

God who commands wind and wave, whales and worms (Jonah);

God from whom no one can snatch His sheep (John 10:34-35);

God who raises the dead (1 Corinthians 15, all 4 gospels).

Peace fixes its gaze forward to the purposes of God:

Resurrection and reunion with the saints of all the ages (1 Thess. 4:13-18);

Recreation of a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21-22);

Redemption of our bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; Romans 8:23-24).

Finally, peace abides in the presence of God who dwells in us and in whom we dwell, and who will be the crowning glory and light of the age of ages when all promises are consummated and all purposes fulfilled:

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me" (John 15:4, ESV).

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2, ESV).

fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).


And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4, ESV).

We could not ultimately rescue or heal our bent-winged butterfly, or so many other people and circumstances, but we can have peace because of the promises, person, power, purpose, and most of all the presence of God. We can breathe in peace now, in the battered and broken, because of our sure and certain hope in a day when there will be no more butterflies with broken wings, wives with broken bodies, families with broken homes, or children with broken hearts.

Come, you disconsolate, where'er you languish;
come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, in mercy saying,
"Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot cure."
~Thomas Moore

A different monarch butterfly: a foretaste of good things to come

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