James 3:13-18 and the sacred texts of monarchs
"...When we greet God’s beloved creation - like a new day, or our own selves, or any of the life all around us, when we greet God's beloved creation with gratitude and eager expectation and curiosity, we find we do have what we need. Planting seeds of gratitude by starting the day with thanks for the new day whether sunny or gloomy or chilly or sweltering. With thanks for our bodies, whether old and feeble or young and sturdy or aching or sagging or supple, giving thanks for these bodies that are our sensual vessels through this world – with thanks for the bodies God gave us to feel and taste and hear and touch and see and smell this whole world, both pleasure and pain.
We plant seeds of gratitude and we can trust that we will harvest fruits of generosity and hope. And there’s still all sorts of mystery. We plant honey locust seeds and we’ll get honey locust trees, maybe they won’t all survive, some will have thorns and some won’t, but we won’t get pear trees. But when we plant seeds in our hearts and our families and our communities the results aren’t so clear. Parenting is like this, in such a frustrating and painful way. The best parenting we can offer, planting seeds of love for God and kindness to others and sharing with people and living gently in this Earth, and children, young and old, don’t only or always bear these fruits. We say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and sometimes that’s true, but sometimes our children don’t reflect our hopes for them at all, and it can feel like failure, and it can be scary, and it can hurt so much.
We find this in our families, and in our work, when our best still isn't enough some days, or when the systems we're part of are so powerful that it seems we'll never impact them.
What should we do, then? Stop planting seeds of peace and love and generosity and wisdom? Will the hurt and fear of not being able to control the fruit keep us from planting the best seeds we can? I wonder if we can be faithful with our planting regardless of the outcome....
I was amazed by the million monarchs I met in Mexico, but there should have been 20 times as many. Why does it really matter, you might be thinking, since there are so many other kinds of butterflies anyway? But butterflies, like bees, are pollinators, so we simply, truly, cannot eat without them. And monarchs travel further – by far – than any other kind of pollinator. We’re just beginning to understand how dangerous a world with few bees can be, we don’t actually have any idea what will change, including what plants and foods might disappear, without monarchs.
The monarchs might be worried, they might be scared, they might be angry. But they just keep flying. They keep laying eggs on milkweed plants and sending ancestral memories through antennae and wings and traveling thousands of miles year after year. These creatures that live a couple weeks and see one stretch of the journey, or live a couple months and fly the whole way, these butterflies so light we can’t feel them on our hand but when we listen can hear them fly by, these monarchs just keeps flying because that is what they are created to do.
Just like we keep planting seeds of peace because that is who we are created to be, regardless of the fruits we produce. We plant seeds of peace and patience and wisdom because it is the right thing to do, it is how we are called to live, it is who we are as God’s people. And we even plant milkweed, because God's creation teaches us that what seemed a weed has true worth, that the stone that the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone of a whole new world, the kingdom of God. The fragile monarch, the lowly infant king, full of wisdom and mysteries still unfolding in our midst.
Where in your life are you in need of flight? What relationship or job or health concern or political issue is defining you? Rise above these challenges, at least for a moment... For a moment now, here, close your eyes if you're comfortable, breathe deeply, and take flight. Soar above your worries and recall that you are whole and holy. The world is waiting for you when you return to earth so leave it be for a moment. As you soar, let your cares melt away and remember that you are beloved...."