On my way to school, aged 8 or 9, I found a dead Tortoiseshell butterfly. Still beautiful, undamaged as far as I could tell. I picked it up and put it my pocket to take home and show Mum.
When I proudly put my hand in my pocket to show off my treasure, there was only dust and small bits of broken legs. A hectic day at Benfield Junior School was too much for it to survive. I remember being really puzzled and disappointed. I’d been SO careful. All I had left were tiny pieces. Later on I discovered that butterfly wings consist of myriad small scales: the wings and body had simply disintegrated.
I still love butterflies, and photograph them whenever I can. This one was taken in a tropical butterfly house at the zoo. Standing in the warm and moist air, entranced by hundreds of fluttering jewels dancing about and seeking the sweetness of nectar, it felt a bit like being in the Garden of Eden.
Such delicate creatures- so easy to crush. Even the tiniest hand of a toddler can kill with kindness: trying to touch the fragile “pretties” spells their end. A careless footstep is enough.
Yet they fly. Those thin wings, a matrix of tiny tubes and scales, carry the creature on its merry way. Food, a mate, and just the joy of being alive- and those gorgeous colours and patterns! Those delicate wings have a hidden strength enough for their purpose.
It is a year since the coronavirus pandemic sent the fragile empires of humanity into panic. Many of us have struggled with loss and grief, with isolation, compromised health and dubious futures. Even with the advantage of faith in God, times have been tough. As physical creatures, we too are subjects to the whims of nature. But we have the consolation of hope through trust in God. I am always amazed when people say Christian faith is just a crutch supporting people too weak to “make it” through life. We’re all in the same mess! Any one of us could argue with a ten-ton truck, fall off a ladder, catch a plague, lose loved ones, get caught up in war, meet a murderous monster… add your own worst case scenario… We are all delicate and vulnerable.
Some of the bravest and noblest people I have met have been ordinary, who have suffered and lost, given out love, and endured dreadful circumstances. They’ve shown amazing courage and strength even as they cried. It’s a deadly dangerous business, being alive. It has been faith and obedience that have marked them out as different, as those with hidden strength. Paul of Tarsus, a follower of Christ who wrote letters to the earliest churches, knew joy and pain. He wrote to Christians in Thessalonica who faced all sorts of difficulties and needed to be encouraged. Here are a few words of a prayer of blessing:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself
and God our Father, who loved us
and by his grace gave us eternal comfort
and a wonderful hope, comfort you
and strengthen you in every
good thing you do and say.2 Thessalonians 2 v16-17, New Living Translation
Paul meant what he wrote. May we too find hope, comfort and strength in our lives through this promise of Love from our Faithful God. Let’s fly on wings of hidden strength!