gardening, spiritual life

The sole source of joy

You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher, priest, scientist

They will soon be here. A bit like a monarch, but think bigger stripes and black and white instead of black and orange. Zebra swallowtails are one of my favorite parts of high summer.

I had never seen one until we moved to this house, where a cottage garden designed with butterflies in mind attracts such a variety of species we should probably put out a chart for passersby. It’s not just monarchs and zebra swallowtails. There are tiger swallowtails with bold swashes of yellow and black,  shimmery coppers, cabbage whites and — best name of all — great spangled fritillaries.

They’re all beautiful, but the zebra swallowtail especially caught our attention, not only because of its beauty but because it’s a sure-fire sign that pawpaw trees are somewhere in the neighborhood or in the surrounding woods. The pawpaw — a creamy, tropical-looking fruit sometimes called the hillbilly mango — is the sole food source for zebra swallowtail caterpillars.

The sole source. No pawpaw, no zebra swallowtails.

Church lady that I am, that puts me in mind of an unusual list that appears smack in the middle of the New Testament, in the book of Galatians. The Apostle Paul called the list the Fruit of the Spirit. Depending on what translation of the Bible you might have, it includes such things as love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control.

Most of us would like to have such qualities in our lives (or at least we wish the people around us would exhibit such traits), but it’s not like you can go shopping for joy. You can’t drink it in or inject it into your veins. You can’t even whip it up through some kind of self-help program or an attempt to control the circumstances of life. As I remember telling our daughters when they were younger, “There’s a reason Paul didn’t call this list the Fruit of the Good Girl. You just can’t get there by yourself.”

No pawpaw, no zebra swallowtails. Pawpaw is the sole food source. No Spirit of God in your heart, no Fruit of the Spirit in your day-to-day life. God is the sole source — the soul source as it is.

So, if you’re looking for joy, looking for peace and love and gentleness, consider where you’re looking. God’s not playing hide and seek with anyone. He’s right here, right now, ready to be found.





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