Jessica Morgan McAtee
When Butterflies and God Go Missing
We learn much about God and existence by observing nature.
Jesus told many parables and used natural processes in the lessons.
For twenty years, I have worked with butterflies. Many truths came to me in the garden and I share them in The Gospel in Butterflies. This one involves that strange space where we feel God is missing because we can't see him.
Temperatures must reach a certain point before butterflies can fly. Each species has its own limits. So, in winter months, especially in snowy regions, they are obscure. Yet, they are still around, hidden in trees, crevices and earth. They recess in a suspended state called diapause. They are always present, just waiting for warmth to beckon them out.
People in colder climates are often surprised to learn that butterflies are in their landscapes and neighborhoods year-round. Because we cannot see them as easily in winter, humans make the mistake of believing they aren't present. It's an easy mistake to make, but it is based on our limited view, which we confuse with truth.
Mourning Cloak butterflies overwinter as winged adults. On sunny winter days, they may get warm enough to come out for a brief visit. Before night falls, they settle back into a safe hideout and return to their rest.
My childhood faith had this strange dichotomy where God was always with you…except when you sinned, then he somehow couldn’t look at you or be near you. It made me feel insecure about whether I was "in or out." Fear was always lurking. It seemed a constant back and forth, which is it? Is he ever-present or not?
Do you believe God can turn from you?
- Yes, I believe God turns away from me when I deserve it
- No, I believe God doesn't turn from me
- I think it depends...
- I have no idea
There are verses in scripture that seem to verify that God turns his face from us.
And, there are other verses in scripture, including words of Christ that say God is always with us.
...And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Which do we trust?
Then I looked at Jesus, God as human, and saw how he spent his time with sinners, outcasts, thieves, cheats, liars, the sexually immoral and worse. If Jesus is God (which is what Christians believe) that means God can look at me when I sin and he is still near me.
How could an ever-present God ever be absent?
Our experience may be that, but like wintering butterflies, the truth is distorted by our own faulty perceptions.
Jesus tells a parable about how God responds to us when we are lost. In the Prodigal Son story, a wayward and desperate son has nowhere to turn. He comes to his senses. Then he shamefully returns to his dad, “…but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 my emphasis).
Luke 15:31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.’ Luke 15:31
When the son "comes to his senses" he is able to see beyond his natural vision, into the kingdom of God. In this kingdom, his loving father is always there for him. He is the one who wandered off, his father never left.
Like the sun behind a cloud or a butterfly in the winter, God’s warmth is always present and ready to love us back into redemption. The distorted view of separation is always on our end.
When was the last time you forgot God was near?
How could an ever-present, all-knowing God ever not be near us?
If he couldn’t be with sinners, who on earth could he be with?
This post was derived from a daily entry in my new book, The Gospel in Butterflies. Check it out for more parallels between Butterflies and God.