This morning I came down to our rather grandly named utility room (think back of garage with corrugated plastic roof) to unexpectedly and inexplicably find a butterfly there. As I watched, bemused, it kept flying into the same patch of wall, as though mesmerised by the texture of the gently curling paint. I had no idea how it got there and (if butterflies have ideas) I suspect neither did s/he. What of course was abundantly clear was that it did not belong there. It was made for freer things, mellow breezes, welcoming flowers and the glorious breadth of sky.
The thing was, how could I get it out? More importantly, how could I get it out without harming its delicate fragility? I had opened the door, but still it flew pointlessly in circles in the other end of the room. I tried whispering to it, realising even as I did so that we did not speak the same language and it was futile. But I still persisted, willing it to find freedom.
Then disaster struck. It fluttered helplessly behind the radiator, cold at least, summer heat rendering it unnecessary. But it had manoeuvred into a dark small space where I could not reach it, and I feared its wings would be crushed as it tried to escape. I felt sadness rest on me like a heavy weight.
To distract myself, I headed to other tasks, returning only when thirst drove me to the kitchen. To my astonishment, there is was, flailing this time against a pane of glass with no opening, but next to a section which did. This time I was determined to somehow help it find a way out, restore it to liberty.
The window now opened, I waited for it to sense the air and make its own escape, but still it stubbornly resisted the path to freedom. Then at last it finally stopped its frenetic movement just long enough for me to gently cup my hands around it and quickly open the shelter of my hands just outside in the garden air. It flew away, and a moment later I was rewarded by the sight of it gently resting on a flower, food and shelter now freely available. It was home.
It seems to me that perhaps we are all like that sometimes. We find ourselves in the wrong place, not quite knowing how we got there and unable to work out how to regain our freedom. God may well be there, willing us on, trying to communicate with us, but we are too frantic to hear the whisper. Sometimes what we need to do, frail creatures that we are, is stop just long enough for him to gently show us the way home.