I have discovered some of the old Sunday School classics that were written for children of another generation. Margaret Gatty wrote a book titled Parables from Nature. In her book is a story “A Lesson in Faith” about a caterpillar that makes a discovery that reinforces the critical lessons that nature teaches us about ourselves.
Here is a brief excerpt – the mother butterfly has just asked her to take care of her eggs and not to feed her baby butterflies anything but honey nectar from the flowers and morning dew and then, falls off the cabbage leaf, wilts and dies: “‘A pretty nurse she has chosen, indeed, poor lady!” exclaimed she, “and a pretty business I have in hand. Why did she ever ask a poor crawling creature like me to bring up her dainty little ones! Much they’ll mind me, truly, when they feel the gay wings on their backs, and can fly away.’ However, the poor butterfly was dead, and there lay the eggs on the cabbage-leaf, and the green caterpillar had a kind heart, so she resolved to do her best.’” A Lesson in Faith by Margaret Gatty
The miracle of Metamorphosis is a perfect example in nature of the physical process of a creature literally becoming a new creation. There are references in the Scriptures that speak of the new spiritual creation that we can become. In Second Corinthians 5:17 we read “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old things passed away, behold new things have come.” Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In Colossians 9:13, Apostle Paul reminds them “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
These signs in nature, the Scriptures refer to as shadows and types, are there to teach us the deeper principles he wants us to discover in order to understand the holy creation he has designed us to become with of course one requirement – we can only become this new creation through his Son, Jesus Christ.
I have been blessed in my work to observe the spiritual process of metamorphosis in many situations. Through Christ I am able to create an environment for change in the encounters I have with others. Creating an environment for change takes faith and a large measure of hope. It also takes patience as not everyone is at that point of wanting to change and I respect that. Spiritual transformation is such an important process that it cannot be rushed or forced or brought about through guilt or shame, and can only happen within the heart and spirit of the individual. It can happen in the eleventh hour of our life. In these encounters, a partnership between them and Christ can begin to happen as they observe the ways in which it is manifested in my life, such as the way I treat them and how they feel. Over time, week after week, session after session, am I still this loving, caring person toward them after I see all the flaws and hear the stories of a life stripped over time of its dignity and humanity? Does my God still see something worth loving in them, the unlovable, as they may see themselves.
One winter, while working with a family, I observed the young husband struggling through the consequences he reaped from the seeds he had sown in his life of drugs, violence and indiscretions outside the marriage. He was like a spindly young tree swaying this way and that, in whatever direction the wind was blowing. In this struggle, he began to transform spiritually. He gradually became totally aware that he was responsible for the chaos that was causing his wife such anguish and saw how he needed to be liked by everyone so much that he couldn’t seem to create any lasting change. Here is an example of how we lose ourselves meeting everyone else’s needs but our own and the ones who look to us for stability. I observed that the unselfish love his wife had for him had such power because she would not settle for anything less than the best he could become. She knew there was a new creation possible in him even if he couldn’t see it. During a stint in jail in another county sleeping on the cold floor in an overcrowded cell, he discovered a book that had been left by a visiting pastor titled Jesus Freaks by dc Talk, a Christian rap group. Not being a reader, he shocked himself as to how much time per day he spent reading the testimonies of people who were martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ. When he was released, the change was remarkable and lasting. Who he gradually became through Christ, was the difference between a caterpillar and a butterfly, it was so dramatic. I believe that his transformation has been one of the most profound I have witnessed in my career.
There was a lark in the story with the caterpillar. She looked to the lark to help her by finding out how to raise the little “butterflies” in one of his trips high up in the blue sky. As he returned, he announced: “‘News, news, glorious news, friend caterpillar!’ sang the lark, ‘but the worst of it is, you won’t believe me!’”
The lark was correct; the caterpillar did not believe him when he told her that the butterfly eggs would hatch into caterpillars like herself. But, the most unbelievable statement for her was that she would become a butterfly one day. . .
I will let you and the Holy Spirit finish this chapter of Sweetwater Journey in your prayer life and what may need to happen to breathe life into your new creation. The young man in the story still has struggles and has to pay the ongoing consequences of his younger life’s bad choices but he knows that Jesus is with him and loves him and continues to reward his good choices and give him strength the days he feels like a worm with wings. We all have those days. Today, he especially likes having his own copy of Jesus Freaks.
God bless our communities with butterflies and caterpillars alike who are continually becoming and loving in the process, discovering their new creation in each other.