I’m a Beautiful Schmetterling

She's imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won't ask for help
She is messy but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie

She is gone but she used to be mine

—Sara Bareilles

Jesus Christ: through whom all things came and through whom we live.

You are never alone on the Camino: there are often other pilgrims around. But the reason you are truly never alone: there are always butterflies flitting about.

Mariposas. Schmetterlings.

They were usually white and very delicate, floating more than flying. Sometimes they were Tiffany blue with black outlines. A nature paint-by-number. They drifted around in the bushes and at our feet. They didn’t seem to mind the heavy foot traffic of pilgrims walking the Camino. 

My mom would comment that the butterflies were her reminders from Jesus that she could keep going. This usually made me giggle, but then after she went home and I carried on alone I saw butterflies and they made me think of her. I guess that is a kind of divine power—transporting people across continents and oceans with the simple brush of a butterfly wing. 

People often compare the experience of finding God to being “born again” like the life cycle of a butterfly. From a horrible ugly caterpillar into the chrysalis and born again into new life as a beautiful butterfly.

(I can’t even write the phrase “beautiful butterfly” without hearing the voice of the caterpillar from A Bug’s Life when he puts the fake wings on and says, “I’m a beautiful butterfly.” It makes me smile.) 

I haven’t experienced anything like “caterpillar into chrysalis; out as butterfly” in my spiritual journey. I find myself always in a process of death and rebirth, growing and changing, constantly evolving, discovery then unlearning. I can’t look back at previous iterations of myself and scoff at what a gross, ugly caterpillar I was.

In each season, I was doing the best I knew how. I don’t imagine that I’ve somehow arrived and am now a fully-formed butterfly with an elaborate design. I was never the worst and I’m not the best now. I haven’t transcended into a superior being and I was never the worst possible version of a human being either. There isn’t a linear self-improvement plan. I’ve matured, sure. I’ve learned and experienced some life, but nothing happens overnight and life isn’t a story of one transformation. We live a series of lessons and transformation and struggle and payoff. Over and over and over.