A recent debate I had with a few atheists inspired this story… The Blue Butterfly symbolizes the presence of God.
HE sat at the edge of the circular cement pond in the middle of the park, a fountain trickling away at its center. His cupped hands were raised in front of his eyes. Peter gazed through a tiny crack as though he were looking into the face of his first love. Inside, he held a treasure: a blue butterfly.
“What do you have there?” beckoned another boy. Although the same age, Jared seemed much older. His eyes carried a kind of anxious, unsettled look that you normally only see in adults. But his words seemed polite enough, at least at first.
“A blue butterfly,” replied Peter.
“No you don’t!” Jared shot back, his face contorting. “Let me see, then.”
“I can’t really,” Peter replied.
“Ya, right. You’ve got nothing but thin air in your hands,” Jared sneered. “There are no blue butterflies around here.” Peter looked up for the first time with a blend of curiosity and compassion in his eyes. “Okay,” he replied—as if to say “whatever.”
“There’s no such thing!” Jared repeated dogmatically. But Peter looked up, smiled, and gently responded. “Well, I guess you’re wrong.”
Jared reached over, yanked on Peter’s arms, and pasted his eye against the small opening of Peter’s cupped hands. Adjusting his face a couple of times, blinking rapidly, he stood up in silence, his face searching for words. “That’s not a butterfly.”
“Then what is it?” Peter calmly asked.
“Wishful thinking.” Jared cast a glance around the park, trying to pretend that he was disinterested. “Whatever it is, it’s not a butterfly. Nice try.”
Peter shook his head. Glancing across the pond, he spotted Marian sitting by the edge. “She caught one too,” he said, nodding his head in her direction. Jared disproportionately laughed out loud, drawing attention to himself from several bystanders. “I’ve been in this park all summer, and not only have I not seen a single blue butterfly, but I… I don’t see any nets. How did you and her catch them, Peter? Don’t tell me… you asked them to come to you?”
Jared didn’t give him time to answer. He hopped onto the pond’s ledge and strutted around it toward Marian with a swagger that betrayed more insecurity than self-confidence. “Let’s see your butterfly,” he demanded.
Marian looked up, squinting through the sunlight framing Jared’s dark figure. “Here,” she said, holding up a sheet of paper she had been coloring on.
“Ha!” scoffed Jared. “Peter said you caught one. I guess he doesn’t know the difference between the real thing and a drawing.” Marian looked a bit perplexed. “No… I had one, but… not right now. This is what it looked like,” she said, as she continued to hold her drawing toward him.
“That’s stupid. You expect me to believe that?” Jared aimed a condescending glare intended to provoke. For a moment, Marian felt anger rise within her. Jared didn’t have to believe her, but neither did he have to be… a jerk. Taking a noticeable breath, she lowered her picture to the piece of cardboard on the ledge, and continued to color, slowly and carefully, making sure every detail was just right. Momentarily embarrassed that she had taken the high ground instead of him, Jared wheeled around, making sure to step on a corner of her drawing as he whisked away.
Marian bit her lip as she leaned over, wiped the dirt from the paper, and looked down at her butterfly. A small grin crossed her face. It didn’t matter what Jared thought. Even though the butterfly was gone—for now—she had seen it, felt it, and held it within her hands. It was as real to her now as it was then. To say it was not would be to betray a reality more sure than Jared’s carefully constructed world with its tall, paper-thin walls and iron doors.
“There’s no such thing as a blue butterfly in these parts, no matter what you guys say,” Jared declared as he plunked himself on the cement beside Peter, deliberately bumping his body against him. This time it was Peter who smirked. Looking at Jared with surprising gentleness, he quietly said, “They won’t come to you unless you open your hands—” but Jared cut him off.
“I want proof—proof that these butterflies exist, you idiot.”
Peter ignored him. “The only way to catch one, Jared, is not to go after it with nets or tools, but simply open your hands and wait. It will come… not in the way you expect, or even when you want. But it will come. That’s how Marian and I caught ours.”
Jared’s face betrayed a deep disgust, as if all his sensibilities were assaulted at once. Without saying a word, he dropped to his knees beside the pond, opened his hands, and sat motionless. A few moments of uncomfortable silence passed. Then Jared muttered quietly beneath his breath in a whimsical voice, “I’m wait-ing….” He changed his face, as if overcome with feigned emotion at “just the thought” of even catching a “beloved blue butterfly.”
“Oh, oh… I can feel it… it’s coming,” Jared mocked.
At that moment, he caught out of the corner of his eye the figure of another younger boy sitting at pond’s edge on the other side, his hands also outstretched. Jared plumped back resigned, and resting his head on his hand, stared in disgust.
The little boy seemed transfixed, his eyes closed, lips moving slightly. Shaking his head, Jared stood up, bent over to tie his shoe, and then casually walked over to the lad, who remained motionless.
“You’re going to be there all day,” Jared said, casting a pathetic glance at him. “Huh?” the boy said, opening one eye with a squint. Over pronouncing his words, Jared repeated: “You’re-going-to-be-there-all-day.”
The boy stared back.
“Because-there-are-no-blue-butteflies,” Jared repeated, louder this time.
“I let mine go,” the boy said quietly.
“Oh really?” Jared said, sarcasm dripping from voice.
“I don’t need to hold it all the time. I’ve seen it. Held it. Touched it. But I also need to see, hold, and touch other things too. Especially my mom. She’s been really sad lately…” he said, his voice drifting off.
“Here you go.” Marian was standing beside them, her outstretched hand holding her picture toward the little boy. “I hope your mom likes it. Tell her the butterfly is beautiful and that she should wait for one.”
With that, Jared released a guttural yell as he leaped into the pond feet first, hoping to splash Marian’s drawing—but she blocked it in time. “You’re all crazy!” he barked, as he waded across the pond, leapt over its side, and sped away on his bike.
Marian and the two boys looked at each other briefly with a knowing smile, and parted without saying a word.
That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands… this life was made manifest to us, and we saw it, and testify to it… that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us… we are telling you this so that our joy may be complete.
1 John 1:1-4
…he is found by those who do not test him,
and manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him.
Wisdom of Solomon 1:2
You are loved.
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