As a symbol of Native American spirituality, the dragonfly represents transformation, like a butterfly, but also "happiness, speed, and purity. Purity, because the dragonfly eats from the wind itself." 1
"The Hopi believe that dragonflies have great supernatural powers and are shamanistic. The Hopi people credit dragonflies with saving their tribe from starvation... In Hopi and Pueblo tribes, the dragonfly was considered a medicine animal, associated with healing and transformation, whose spirit was often called on by medicine men and women." 2
My boys and I recently took a road trip through northern Arizona, and the first place we visited was Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona. When I was a young adult this was my favorite spot in the whole wide world. When I got my first car, and whenever the opportunity presented itself, I would drive the 1.5 hours it took to get out of the oppressive heat of Phoenix just to sit on a rock in the shade of a cottonwood tree with my feet dangling in the cool flowing waters of Oak Creek, and contemplate life. So I was immensely grateful that after almost 30 years away, I found that exact spot again to share with my children. The place was amazingly unchanged. All except for the dragonfly. I didn't remember dragonflies before. But I couldn't help noticing one this time: a rather large red dragonfly that repeatedly flew straight towards me or crossed directly in front of me. It definitely got my attention.
Later, as I wandered around The Chapel in the Hills, a beautiful, striking example of religious architecture set in one of the red rock cliffs of Sedona, I came across another dragonfly, in the gift shop. This one was made from beaded wire and came with a story of transformation: of how the dragonfly, after spending much of its life in the muddy depths of a river, crawls up a stem to the surface to find freedom and its natural calling in majestic flight.
At some point, it dawned on me that the book I took with me to read on this vacation was titled "Dragonfly in Amber" (by Diana Gabaldon), and I recalled my last visit with my spiritual director just before I left on this road trip: on her coffee table between us a beautiful altar had been made for her by friends which consisted of nothing but dragonflies. And finally, after a week of traveling through the Hopi, Pueblo and Navajo lands of northeastern Arizona, I returned home to research dragonflies, only to find that amongst these Native American tribes in particular, the dragonfly is their most sacred symbol.
Are all these coincidences meaningless? Or is there a message here for me?
Insects have been meaningful symbols for
me before. Butterflies, a traditional symbol of growth and renewal, have always felt like a
blessing, an affirmation, when they cross my path.
And the scarab beetle, which symbolizes spiritual direction in ancient
cultures, has on more than one occasion come into my life when I have
wondered what kind of work I should be doing. In fact, just a few days
ago, I found another scarab beetle just outside the door of my financial
adviser's office, where I had again come to the conclusion that I need to find a job.
I'm at another crossroads, as I was before, only this time much more is at stake. You see, because my husband and I are getting a divorce, for the first time in a long time, I can't just be a mother and caretaker of house, yard, and family, I can't just do volunteer work, and I can't just occasionally tutor or substitute for a teacher. I actually need to support myself financially.
So I have a choice before me: I can find more work as a mathematics teacher, something I used to do very well and enjoyed, and which would provide a regular paycheck; or I can try to find ways to get paid doing what I feel most passionate about and called to do now: keep writing about God and faith, finish my schooling and become a spiritual director, and continue promoting Christian unity and positive interfaith relations. The first is the safer bet, to be sure, but when I contemplate spending most of my available time teaching mathematics, a feeling of deadness comes over me.
This divorce came about for many reasons, but primarily for me it represented freedom and the opportunity to live fully the life I
want to live; to be, in all areas of my life, the person God wants me
to be. But dare I stake all on being the person God has taught me to be, and trust that God will provide the income as needed? Dare I invest in my future self? Can I value myself and God's faith in me enough to do this?
I have listened to God before in many, many areas of my life. Why is this different?
I know it is a matter of trust. I trust God. Can I trust myself not to mess up?
When I asked these questions of God in prayer, this is the answer I received,
"The Lord hath sent strength for thee." (Ps. 68:28) 3
"Herein is the work assigned to the individual soul, to have life in itself, to make our sphere, whatever it is, sufficient for a reign of our Father's abounding spirit -- thankful, unutterably thankful, if with the place and the companionship assigned to us we are permitted to build an earthly tabernacle of grace and goodness and holy love, a home like a temple, but should this be denied us, resolved for our own souls that God shall reign there, for ourselves at least that we will not, by sin or disobedience or impious distrust, break with our own wills our filial connection with our Father, -- that whether joyful or sorrowing, struggling with the perplexity and foulness of circumstances, or in an atmosphere of peace, whether in dear fellowship or alone, our desire and prayer shall be that God may have in us a realm where His will is law, and where obedience and submission spring, not from calculating prudence or ungodly fear, but from communion of spirit, ever humble aspiration, and ever loving trust." 4
And continuing to answer my questions, lest I have any more doubts, I heard last night at church the following reading from 2 Corinthians, 8:7-15: "it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something -- now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has -- not according to what one does not have...."
As my pastor reiterated, "It is Christ who gives us strength." I cannot doubt that, nor that it is God who pulls me forward.
So I will find meaning in the dragonfly for my own life. And I will take comfort in the wisdom and understanding of other spiritually attuned people, especially the Hopi and Pueblo, whose depiction of the dragonfly on rocks and artwork looks very much like a double-bar Latin cross --
so much so that they had no trouble associating the dragonfly with Christ.
May the Peace
Which passes Understanding
Be with you Always,
1 from (http://scalar.usc.edu/works/chid490animalmourning/dragonfly-and-butterfly)
2 from (http://www.native-languages.org/legends-dragonfly.htm)
3 from "Streams in the Desert," June 27
4 by J.H. Thom, from "Daily Strength for Daily Needs," June 27