Behold the Dragonfly

For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (ASV)

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I grew up across the street from Lake Michigan. Between our house and the lakeshore was a strip of prairie land, and in late summer swarms of dragonflies always showed up there. When I say swarms, I’m not kidding. Thousands of dragonflies formed black clouds along the shoreline. I noticed them when the rest of the world seemed silent. I stood quietly wondering if I could hear the dry rattling of their wings. But I couldn’t.

My grandmother said that in her day dragonflies were called “darning needles” and they sewed children’s mouths shut if they were sassy to their parents. This terrified me. Dragonflies seemed to be curious about humans. They flew around and close to me — and I was a sassy little kid. You don’t hear a dragonfly coming until it’s right in front of you, and if it wanted to sew your mouth shut it could. One day, a neighbor boy stood in the field and raised one arm, index finger extended. He said it had something to do with dragonflies seeking the highest point. When he allowed a dragonfly to land on his finger, I thought he was very brave. He must have been a good boy, too, because the dragonfly left him alone.

I feel sorry for people who are too busy to notice the dragonflies. The genius of God’s perfect design is so evident in these amazing creatures. For centuries scientists have studied them, especially their wings and their eyes. Two sets of delicate wings allow dragonflies to hover, fly loops, go backward and sideways. They can come to a complete stop at 30 miles per hour. And their large multifaceted eyes are made up of thousands of lenses making it possible for them to see nearly 360 degrees around them.

Last week, I was writing in my car at the lakeshore when I noticed hundreds of dragonflies darting around. Their teal bodies reflected the radiance of the sunlight bouncing off the sparkling water. Now, instead of being afraid of them, I’m curious. The world seemed silent to me again, like it had when I was a child. Focused only on the dragonflies, I got out of the car and raised one arm, index finger extended. Surprise! One did land on my finger. She clung tight to me as I lowered my hand to get a better look. I wondered how she saw me through those many lenses in her bulging eyes.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says our understanding of God is like “looking in a mirror darkly.” In Paul’s time, mirrors cast an imperfect image. Sometimes, the glass reflected multiple images of an object creating an effect much like the way dragonflies must see. I suppose that’s the way the dragonfly saw me, a garbled image of something bigger and greater then she could begin to fathom.

Mother Teresa once said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence….”

And so do the dragonflies move in silence, seeing us in a mirror darkly the same way we see God.

Have you noticed the dragonflies this summer? Stop, savor the silence, raise your hand and see if one rests on your finger.


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7 responses to “Behold the Dragonfly

  1. Hi Jean -Oh my, this brought back memories! My mother called them darning needles too, but my childish mind translated it to dining needles. I guess my dragonflies enjoyed eating at fine restaurants. LOL.Great analogy, and the scripture backs it up. Right now we "see through a glass darkly."Blessings,Susan 🙂

  2. Dee

    Wonderfully written, Jean. Drangon flys have always fascinated me…They are so irridesantly beautiful!

  3. Alright Jean..I'm going to have to hold my hand up high next time I see a dragonfly zooming by. We don't have them in mass around here, but that was a wonderful picture. Hope I get to see them like that one day. Take care. jamie

  4. Hi, Jamie.Yesterday, I wrote at my lakeside office (the car!) and they were still there. Not in the same quantity as a couple of weeks ago, but impressive none the less. I overheard one guy tell his companion that it was "prehistoric" like a plague or something. :)Jean

  5. Susan, I love it that you called dragonflies dining needles. Cute! Thanks for the compliment, Dee 🙂

  6. Beautifully written! Jean

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