Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Butterflies in the Desert

And he was transfigured before them; 
his face shone like the sun 
and his clothes became white as light.
                                                  Matthew 17:2

Butterflies.  That is the image that comes to my mind when I meditate on the Transfiguration.  I think-- how wonderful it is, that the Lord allowed them to see His beauty before they had to witness His crucifixion.  I often struggle with the season of Lent.  I miss the Alleluias.  I reflect on my own temptations in the desert.  I see how clearly I have abandoned the Lord at times, even after years of seeing His work in my own life and the lives around me.  I especially struggle with the reenactment readings of the crucifixion and with having to yell, “Crucify Him!” despite my actions that yell that very thing at times.  I find it fascinating that the church often uses a chrysalis as an image of Lent, even more so since learning all that goes on inside of that seemingly dormant little creature.

I love butterflies.  In fact, I have several times ordered caterpillars in the mail in order to watch them transform.  I find it incredible that God can take some fairly ugly, worm-like creatures and create something as graceful and delicate as a butterfly.  I used to think that they just went to sleep in there and woke up as these beautifully transformed creatures-- no pain, no struggle, just easy beautification. They are so incredibly beautiful when they emerge from their chrysalis; but do you know the darkness and struggle they have to go through inside there, all on their own?  I think of the chrysalis like Jesus’ temptation in the desert, or even like our own earthly lives after the age of reasoning.  Like the butterfly, I believe we, too, have four stages of spiritual development: pre-birth, childhood, reasoning/growing with the Lord, and-- after we die-- transfiguration.  The majority of our life we are in the chrysalis stage of regrowth.

Did you know that while the butterfly is in that chrysalis it doesn’t just grow a set of wings? Did you know that most of what made it a caterpillar actually dissolves and turns into liquid, and then key components from that liquid are then formed into the butterfly?  Now that sounds painful to me.  It also sounds like our daily struggle to die to ourselves and let God mold us into the beautiful creatures He has called us to be.

I struggled this year, as I do every year, deciding what to give up for Lent.  I didn’t want to just do the typical chocolate or tv or something that didn’t really mean that much to me.  I thought about trying to have a completely empty sink every single day, but that one is still beyond me a bit.  What I decided on may seem silly to some but to me, it seems just right. I prayerfully reflected on where I felt I might need to let go.  I decided to give up shopping.  The only exceptions are groceries on Sundays and things that I need for others.  This may seem like a little thing, but I have a habit of getting things as soon as I want them; for example, stopping to get a baked potato at Wendy’s instead of planning out and bringing something home in advance.  Already this choice has been so freeing and has inspired me to be more innovative about what I am going to prepare.  I am hoping this change will disintegrate the part of me that feels compelled to rely on my own wealth to fulfill all of my wants, instead of letting God fulfill my needs.  I am also hopeful it will help develop my eyes to see where my money can best go to use and help others.  I can honestly say that it has already been very fruitful and rewarding.

Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works but according to his own design
                                                                    2 Timothy 1:8-9

I find great comfort in this second reading as well.  I think of it as a reminder that during those struggles of life to become the person God is calling us to be, even inside of the chrysalis, we are never alone or out of His mind.  I recently had contact with my first Spiritual Director, Fr. David Engo, whom I first met when I was only sixteen years old.  He was preaching a Lenten Mission in Rhode Island a few weeks ago, but I think God’s lessons began on the ride down there.  The location was about an hour from my house, so it gave me lots of time to reflect on where I was when I met Fr David, as well as how far God has brought me since then.  What amazed me most was how the struggles felt looking back on them now.  The areas of my life that were the most painful and difficult to face years ago were now just a memory, like a completely healed wound.  There are still some scars, but even those are fading with time.

At the Mission, Fr. David preached about the “JOY” that consumes you when you live a life of relationship with Christ, and my cheeks hurt from smiling so big, because I knew exactly what he was talking about.  I never in a million years thought I could be this incredibly happy in life.  I spent many years in a deep depression and struggled with self-hatred and self-harming behaviors.  When I met Fr. David, I found out that suicide is a sin.  Go figure.  I had thought “Thou shall not kill” meant everyone else, not me.  So I spent years praying every night that God would just end my life, because I couldn’t see any possibility of anything good coming from it.  Now, I am so grateful for some prayers not being answered the way we want them to be at times.

Although there are still some things about myself that I would like to go on the list of dissolvable
items during my transformation, I can see the beauty He is creating within me, making the times of darkness much more bearable.  Knowing He is by my side, holding me and Loving me every single moment, amazes me.  So, as we continue this journey through the desert, allowing ourselves to be transformed, let us hold on to the reality that it is through the struggle of the chrysalis that the butterfly gets everything it needs to fly. Let us remember that even in the darkest moments of life, we are never alone.


Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator for 2.5 years. Originally from New Bedford, MA, she served at a mission in Kentucky for 16 months before settling in Waltham, MA. In addition to being a foster parent, she has been working with children in various ways for the past 20 years, helping with the children's program on retreats and with the Holy Family Institute group in Boston, and is currently a nanny for several families. She serves as a Eucharistic minister in her home parish of St. Mary’s in Waltham and visits the hospital monthly to bring Scripture and Communion to patients in the eating disorders and behavioral management wards.

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