Earlier this week I was out on a distanced walk with a friend locally (isn’t it wonderful to be able to do that now?). We were striding through a field and I was imparting something serious when my friend suddenly stopped and pointed down at our feet - half a dozen butterflies were clustered on some wildflowers, their delicate wings shimmering against the petals. As we drew closer, they flew into the air and scattered.
I had almost missed them, so intent was I on talking and walking. It just goes to show how much might be going on beyond our awareness. I had been looking straight ahead, but my friend had been looking down, more familiar with what you are likely to find in a wildflower meadow in early July.
So the next day when walking, I was on the lookout. One butterfly was camouflaged in the grass until it made a quick dash to another patch and gave itself away. A delicate brown colour with clear ‘eyespots’ on the upper part of its wing when open, it was possibly one of the first Graylings of the year to emerge. If indeed my untrained eye identified it correctly, I was lucky to see one; like so many butterflies, the species is in decline.
All of which makes me think how easy it is to have blinkered sight. Since we have been ‘raised with Christ’, as Paul writes in Colossians, our eyes have been opened to a new reality. Eugene Petersen puts it like this in his translation, The Message: ‘Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that’s where the action is’ (Col 3:1). I love that. Who doesn’t want to be ‘where the action is’? Out in the fields, the ‘action’ was the teeming life of the butterflies and once I registered that I saw them everywhere. They were the glory of God’s good creation at that moment, and revealed God’s glory to me as I looked.
As the poet ee cummings* wrote in his poem ‘i thank You God for most this amazing’:
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
If some of us have been enjoying butterflies, many more have been appreciating the birdsong - so much so we might be in danger of, again, taking it for granted. Which we cannot do: destructive human practices endanger them just like the butterflies. Is there even one thing we can offer to help protect such exhilarating, worshipful freedom?
As lockdown gradually eases, we might once again be submerged in activities that distance us from God’s creation and our responsibilities to care well for it. But no. More often than not we have choices: let us keep our eyes and ears open to the real action - where Christ is.
July 10th 2020
*the punctuation is as written, one of ee cummings trademarks