We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm

The Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, in his book, Zorba the Greek, tells the following story:

“I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain.

It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.”

We should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.  What profound wisdom for the spiritual journey! Just as the butterfly emerged with crumpled wings because its emergence had been forced and it had not been allowed to take its natural course, so too are there dangers in our spiritual formation when we seek immediate results or when we seek to control God’s ‘work’ in us.  There is the danger of a disfigured spirituality, an inauthentic spirituality, which may in fact be nothing more than a projection or an embodiment of our own desires and preferences. This danger is nothing new.  The prophet Isaiah spoke of this about two and a half thousand years ago when he communicated God’s message to the people of ancient Israel: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways” (Isaiah 55:8).  But while it is true that this impatience seems to be something which is in the human heart, and the tendency is there to fulfill at once whatever form our longing takes, there is something in our contemporary worldview which really does conspire to pull people away from the waiting and the slow maturing which are marks of an authentic spirituality.

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Ms Kerry McCullough

Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator