I’ve made a renewed commitment to pray every day. I can’t manage life’s busyness and stress without prayer. And now that summer is here, I like taking my Bible to the garden or park, where I find it easier to connect with God, and disconnect from my to-do list.
Last week I was reading about the ancient Jewish tabernacle, an elaborate tent about 15 metres long. Its ceiling was a beautiful tapestry, embroidered with cherubim, or angels, in rich blues, purples, and reds. The cherubim symbolised more than the angelic beings that serve and worship God in heaven; they represent God’s protective covering of his creatures here on earth:
“I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings” (Psalm 61:4).
While I was reading, a butterfly landed on my book. Its wings were open, revealing the bright orange and black beauty of its inner wings. I watched its iridescent colours for minutes, not wanting to disturb it, or cause it to take flight.
Eventually I moved, and it flitted away. I was thrilled this winged creature alighted to illustrate this verse so beautifully. Smiling, I thanked God for the visitor, and read another verse:
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).
The butterfly returned! Its face was turned towards me; I felt like it was looking at me, both of us curious and enjoying communion with another of God’s creatures.
I continued reading:
“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).
The Psalmist may have had the tabernacle in mind when he wrote about being covered by God’s wings. As I reflected, I felt a gentle tickling on my knee. Slowly I leaned over and confirmed that my winged friend had returned. Now it revealed its outer camouflage, grey and brown spots, like the bark of a burled oak. I sensed that God gracing me with its presence, reminding me that no matter how gently, God’s presence is always with me.
Jesus also used the metaphor of wings when he said,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, …how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).
Not only are God’s wings symbols of safety and refuge; they’re images of maternal love. I felt God’s personal love for me that day, as my winged friend returned at least twenty times, a special sign of God’s presence with me. I believe God felt my communion with her, and my delight in her messenger.
Often, it seems, God’s presence is intangible, so it can easily go unnoticed. When life’s circumstances are challenging, we may even feel that God is absent or neglectful. But once in a while, as with the butterfly, God gives us a sign of God’s presence.
Did you notice that these verses don’t equate God’s presence with the lack of trouble? On the contrary, they reflect some pretty dire circumstances. God’s presence is most needed when we’re most in trouble. David shares that he wrote Psalm 57 when he had fled from Saul, the king who personally hunted him down for years, causing David to hide in caves in fear for his life:
“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalmn 57:1).
I’m learning to trust that when circumstances are difficult, God is there. When life takes more than I can give, God is my strength. When storms come or enemies attack, God is my refuge. When God’s presence is iridescently colourful, I rejoice in the sighting. When God’s presence is tangible but invisible, I give thanks for inner sight.
God, open my eyes to both your tangible and intangible presence today, and help me share it like a butterfly on the knee of my friends.
Photo by Maja Dumat - CC BY 2.0