Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Butterfly as Metaphor

I've been thinking about the butterfly as metaphor for a few weeks now.  One of the things I'll miss about our old house is all the butterfly-attracting plants we had put in.  Of course, we'll make similar plantings at our new house, but it will take some time.

Soon after we moved in, I saw a flutter of wings at the new house grounds.  I said, "Come back in a few weeks, little butterfly.  We'll have more plants for you then."

My spouse reminded me that butterflies don't have that kind of lifespan, and I felt sad for a minute or two.  Then I began to ponder.

How did a butterfly get to be such a pervasive symbol of resurrection?

I understand in some ways.  You've got a caterpillar that transforms into a beautiful winged creature:  from grubbiness to glory!  It works in that way.

But it doesn't work in terms of lifespan.  Shouldn't resurrection last an eternity?

I like the deeper implications.  Our resurrection work is never done.  The redemption of creation is underway, but history tells us that it will never be complete.  Even if we believe in the theology that Christ will come a second time, do we believe at that point the redemption of creation will be complete?

Many people would say, "Why, yes.  Isn't that the point?"

But if I look at the Bible as a whole narrative, I see that God is always trying to redeem a creation that seems stubbornly resistant.  Why should we think that there will be an end point where that will change?

I know, I know:  we believe because it's a more attractive ending.  The work of resurrection is so hard in many ways that we want to believe that it will come to an end some day, and we can all relax and bask in the glory of it all.

I'm not sure it will work that way.  I think of all the retired people I know.  They believed that they'd like to have a day free of commitments.  Most of them were looking for another job, whether for pay or just for the joy of volunteering, within a year of retirement.

I suspect that the resurrection life is much the same way.  So maybe a butterfly makes a good symbol after all.

1 comment:

Eclecticity said...

You ask and reflect on: " Even if we believe in the theology that Christ will come a second time, do we believe at that point the redemption of creation will be complete?"
Good question, some would likely say the answer is definitive, it's a done deal. Others, like yourself, see it as ongoing, open-ended.
I think for me the most convincing answer is that yes it is a done deal. Why? For essentially two reasons. One, if God is a God a both justice and love, then the loving and just thing to do is to complete what God promises, i.e. to consumate history and end the cruel suffering and evil that exists right now in creation's present state. Two, I think the vision of Revelation is convincing, inspired of course from Isaiah-you know, no more sorrow and tears, and, in Isaiah the end of the aggressive, killer instinct-wolf and lamb, children playing with snakes, etc.