These are the shoes worn during Easter Service by my 12-year old son, Henry. They are dry now.
Here is their story…
Like millions of folks around the world, yesterday we celebrated Easter. Resurrection Sunday. New Life. As part of that celebration, our children’s Sunday School classes enjoyed a butterfly release during the hour before the main church service was to begin. There is such depth to the significance of the butterfly process. The children watch as the caterpillars grow from shriveled worms to plump caterpillars… witness them form their cocoons… and then after weeks of silence and moments of struggling, they emerge– as beautifully-patterned and brightly-colored butterflies. If you listen closely enough, you can hear the joyful cry of the butterfly: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God, Almighty…I’m free at last!” (Okay, not really.)
Dozens of families had been in the church courtyard for about 30 minutes– snapping adorable photos of our
sugar-drugged giddy-with-joy children. With iPhones in hand, we captured the beautiful, fleeting moments as butterflies rested on our fingertips and eyelet dresses, on our shoulders and in the flowers. The moments looked something like this:
I was focusing most of my attention on Charlie and Louisa, when I realized I hadn’t yet seen Henry. Being the wildlife and nature fanatic that he is, I wanted to see his excitement. So I turned to go find him, when I noticed the facial expression of one of my friends. You know the one– it’s my favorite emoticon:
My friend’s gaze met mine, then turned back toward the fountain in the center of the courtyard. So naturally, that’s where I turned my gaze. And that is when I saw my darling son Henry, who is TWELVE (not three), in the middle of the fountain, sloshing through the water. My first reaction: “Oh my word. What IS he doing?!” I looked down at his feet, traipsing with purpose across the rocks, saturated by fountain water. In slow motion I watched as the water poured from his shoes with every step–realizing that in 20 minutes these shoes would need to be on my child’s feet in the Sanctuary. But then I noticed that Henry wasn’t trying to be goofy (which is usually his method of operation). Rather, he was looking earnestly down at his hands–and what I didn’t know at the time– was that his eyes were fixed on the soggy butterfly he had just rescued from death. As I watched in disbelief that Henry was unabashedly wading through the fountain, several friends spoke up and said that he had been doing this multiple times… that Henry was saving butterflies.
Parents and children laughed at the nature of the scene, while I was just shaking my head. I crossed over to Henry as he stepped out of the water. I listened to him as he proudly explained that, so far, he had “rescued three butterflies!”– creatures who had been waiting weeks for their new life, had finally broken free, but whose frail new wings had landed them in water, a death sentence. I looked down at Henry’s soggy feet, and all I could do was sigh. Henry was oblivious to the fact that his feet and shoes were soaking wet. He hadn’t thought twice about rushing into that fountain three times to urgently scoop up flailing butterflies. That’s because compassion is in his nature. Compassion IS his nature.
My friend said that I had given a good lesson in parenting just then– that if it had been her child, her reaction would have looked nothing like mine.
“Well, that’s Henry. I’m used to it, I guess. Maybe if he had on a brand new pair of Easter bucks, I might be more upset,” I replied.
And then we laughed. But deep down I hoped that really isn’t the case. Whether Henry had been wearing new suede Easter bucks or old, scraggly tennis shoes, I hope my reaction would have been the same. I have been trying to replace my critical, insulting words with life-giving words. I am trying to practice what I preach by encouraging qualities that I want to nurture in my children, instead of harping on their shortcomings. Lord knows I desperately need that same mercy and forgiveness. Every day is a new battle against my temptation to use words that tear down instead of build up. Of course I’m still going to be frustrated when he retaliates against homework, or doesn’t listen to me the first 30 times I ask him something, annoys his siblings, or forgets again and again to turn in his assignments. But I can handle a pair of soaked shoes if they got soaked out of an act of love. Walking through fountains: that’s a love lesson I’m willing to promote.