Butterflies of several varieties dance in a sort of ballet, pirouetting through the air, gliding in a glissade, sometimes performing adagio, sometimes allegro, but always returning to the barre, which is the butterfly bush in our flower garden.
The profusion of purple blooms lures them back to the bush over and over.
This past summer beholding them swoop and swoon gracefully here and there was enchanting, and it’s almost unbelievable that these fluttering creatures used to be lowly caterpillars. Comic George Carlin allegedly once said, “The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”
The butterfly definitely has the glitz! It’s easy to forget the bedazzling butterfly was once the common-looking caterpillar, don’t you think? “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly,” engineer/designer/inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller said. I find that to be true in us human beings as well.
A number of years ago, I attended women’s retreats with ladies from my church family then. The retreat center was beautiful, nestled among nature with serenity in the scenery. Situated in the Oregon countryside, the center was surrounded by tall, stately Douglas fir trees, hazelnut orchards, and vineyards on the hillsides.
Walking trails wound their way around the center, and there were ample places of solitude to visit for prayer or reflection. A small lake for boating and even a zip line for those adventurous types among us were other attractions.
I remember my time there fondly, but one aspect of our weekend there I will never forget. After a busy day of Bible study, praise and worship, prayer, wonderful home-cooked meals with vegetables and herbs from the center’s garden, and fun activities, we gathered together, settled down for the evening, and watched a video. I can’t recall the title, but it was an inspirational viewing of gorgeous photography set to uplifting Christian music with a velvet-voiced narration of Scripture befitting each scene.
One scene was a time-lapsed segment of a magnificent creature – the butterfly – emerging from its cocoon. As I watched the butterfly struggle and push its way free of the chrysalis, the accompanying Scripture was impressed on my heart and in my mind. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
My visual learning style grasped this idea immediately, and that picture and scripture have never left my mind. Next to the verse in my Bible is this notation, written from that day back in the 90’s – “just like a butterfly breaking free from its cocoon.” To this day, when I notice a butterfly coasting in the air, I think of this verse.
How very much we resemble the butterfly. As this magnificent creature goes through stages of life to become an adult, we do likewise. For the butterfly, there are four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. We experience physical stages of life from our start as a fertilized egg in our mother’s womb to babyhood to childhood to adulthood.
But I see a resemblance to the butterfly spiritually as well. We humans can be quite lowly as we crawl along in the mud and mire, serving ourselves like the caterpillar. In the caterpillar stage, this insect eats and eats and eats. That’s all it does. It eats to serve itself, devouring the leaf where the larva was laid as an egg. It eats so that it can grow quickly, and when it has reached its full size, it forms into a pupa or chrysalis (cocoon).
It looks like the caterpillar is just resting inside the chrysalis, but a miraculous transformation is actually taking place – a complete metamorphosis. The caterpillar’s tissues, limbs and even organs all eventually change and an adult butterfly begins to emerge from its encasement.
Just like some people think the caterpillar is ugly or unattractive, when we live our life without Christ, our lives can be very ugly, especially when we are self-serving. But once we come to know Jesus personally, accept Him as our Savior and Lord, a miraculous metamorphosis takes place within us. If we eat and are fed nourishing spiritual food – Biblical wisdom and truth — we will grow in our faith.
The old (ugly, mean-spirited, sinful self) will be transformed into the new (Christ-like) version. But it doesn’t stop there. Our change into Christ-likeness should continue as we mature in spiritual wisdom by reading and hearing God’s Word, seeking righteousness, and serving others.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 4:23-24) tells us, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
When we become believers in Christ, we should not remain stagnant, but should develop and be strengthened (spread our wings and fly) in our walk of faith. We become new creations — the old is gone and the new has come!
“Do ye not comprehend that we are worms,
Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly
That flieth unto judgment without screen?”
~written by Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy