It’s amazing how the soul finds what the soul needs.
When I was on silent retreat last month, I sat in the dining room on our final morning, staring out the window at the peaceful, frozen landscape. In the front yard of the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna (yes, this place is becoming a perennial favorite in my posts) amid the many barren trees and evergreens was one lone tree still covered entirely in leaves — dead, brown leaves hanging ever-so-delicately yet ever-so-resiliently from its sprawling limbs.
As I sat there, mesmerized by this tree and its odd determination to fight nature, a breeze kicked up outside. The leaves started to flutter, at first just the tiniest bit and then more and more intensely, as if the tree was breathing. I guess because the leaves were so dry and light they fluttered in a way that was unlike hardy, green leaves. Their twisting and turning made the entire tree appear to be covered in small brown butterflies, flapping their wings quickly and in unison.
I couldn’t help but smile, especially considering the fact that the previous night’s talk had been about reconciliation and butterflies and new life. In fact, each of us was given a small foam butterfly to take home for our sacred space as a reminder of the freedom that is ours when we forgive others, forgive ourselves, and let go of our burdens in confession.
Suddenly that tree and its dead branches became a symbol hope and a sign that even when our soul is entrenched in the deepest winter, the Spirit is fluttering through our darkness offering light and new life. The Spirit beckons us to see the possibility for renewal and transformation even when everything around us convinces us we are stranded in a barren wasteland.
Butterflies in winter. Nothing is impossible with God.