The Metamorphosis

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
To the shady leaf or stalk.
May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you’
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly

~ Christina G. Rosetti

 

I’ve been thinking about butterflies a lot lately.

Not the ones fluttering around, flitting from flower to flower… No, I’m thinking about the ones trapped in a chrysalis. The ones who aren’t who they were but also not who they’re going to be. The ones who are surrounded all around by a protective shell while they liquefy…

I’m thinking about the ones who are becoming who they will be.

We have all seen caterpillars. When I was a little girl I was enraptured by the tent caterpillars that occupied (and subsequently destroyed) sections of a tree in our yard. I would go out with my glass mayonnaise jar with the holes poked in the lid, and harvest a couple from the tree. I’d prop a stick in the jar and drop a few leaves in there. And I’d watch them for a few days.

caterpillar close up hairy insect

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My mom told me, “Why do you want to keep tent caterpillars? They’re useless, they’re destructive.” I said, “I like them, I want to watch them. They’re caterpillars, Mom!”

So she sighed and indulged my fascination.

But I never stayed fascinated for long. After a couple of days I’d drop them in the yard and set the jar aside. A few days later I’d repeat the operation, but never stuck around to see what the little striped crawlies grew up to be.

In science class our teacher told us about butterflies and moths, and immediately I was glued. Then I was surprised. You see I thought when they cocooned themselves and hung from a branch maybe they shrank and then grew wings. I never knew that in the process they became, effectively, DNA soup.

dna soup

What the caterpillar once was completely died. No, it was still alive, but what it had been was unrecognizable.  According to the Scientific American in its article “How Does a Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly?” the caterpillar in its silk cocoon (a moth) or hardened protein chrysalis (a butterfly) begins by digesting itself.

How odd. How counterintuitive — what good can come of something DIGESTING itself? Well, if it’s going to mature, it’s got to. In this mystery, certain cell groups survive and become aspects of the grown butterfly (eyes, antennae, wings, etc.). Submitting to liquefaction releases enzymes that digest all the butterfly’s existing tissues. Funny thing is, even before the process begins, certain caterpillars walk around with tiny wings inside their bodies, completely invisible from the outside. No one would know that buried in that earthbound creature is the means of flight. Now some species keep aspects of their original caterpillar form, such as muscle structures and bits of the original nervous systems. But, effectively, what emerges from that chrysalis after the set time passes is nothing like what went in.Butterfly chrysalis translucentIn the mystery inside the butterfly chrysalis, rapid-fire cell reproduction is occurring, fueled by the protein-rich DNA soup they’re in. Cells increasing a thousandfold, by the end of metamorphosis, these creatures could be named new creations.

close up of butterfly pollinating flower

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
~ II Corinthians 5:17

And what was bound to the earth spreads its wings and flies, flits, soars — sometimes traveling for miles and miles. What the caterpillar could never do, the butterfly is uniquely equipped to accomplish. And we marvel at its beauty and amazing qualities. We’d never see this coming if all we saw was the munching, crunching caterpillar, traveling over branches, eating every leaf, seedpod or flower in its way. Who would ever imagine wings on those adorable creatures? And who would even want to change a caterpillar? Aren’t they perfectly acceptable as they are? Why would we even need them to become butterflies?

Here are some fascinating facts I’ve discovered about these flying works of art:

  • There are 20,000 species throughout the world
  • They live one to nine months
  • Depending on the species, they migrate north to south, or south to north
  • Most butterflies lay their eggs on plants that will be eaten by the caterpillar when it hatches
  • They smell through their feet!
  • They are food
  • They are pollinators
  • Some adult butterfly species eat rotting fruit, carrion and other waste (acting as little trash disposers)
  • Their presence or absence is a predictor of whether an ecosystem is healthy.

And there’s so much more! But I think the most important reason we have butterflies is for God to show off His creativity and to make the world we live in breathtaking. They, like all of creation, exist to display His glory. Would any of this have happened if they had stayed caterpillars?

rainbow butterfly

And displaying God’s glory is also why we’re here. We start as tiny, helpless babies, growing in the environment into which we are born. We’re hapless inheritors of all the good, bad, and ugly our parents gave us. This, the same stuff they got, combined to form the original us. We begin in our origin stories, for better or worse, and do the best we can under the circumstances.

At some point, though, we sense a stirring deep inside. We hear our Creator’s whisper, and we respond. Some push away the Voice, sometimes for years. Some are wise and turn to Him immediately, but either way the Voice persists. At a point of decision, we realize we have the choice to say Yes and follow Him or No and walk away. When we say yes, the metamorphosis begins. If we say No, the Divine Pursuit persists.

This original Yes sparks a moving from glory to glory,  and it’s a lifelong process. Now of course all analogies break down and while the caterpillar is only once in its chrysalis, our lives progress from chrysalis to chrysalis. Our many liquefactions produce more and more of our Creator’s image, displayed more remarkably each time we crawl out.

Now unlike the butterfly, we have a choice:  stay earthbound, voracious caterpillars ever eating and never becoming anything but older and more like ourselves in our dysfunction… Or we submit to the painful process of dying to all we were before. This means lying helpless at times, cooperating with our Creator each time for however long it takes to become the divine being we were made to be: The splendid creature hiding inside all along. The glorious one who ever submits to each chrysalis time to display more and more of our Daddy’s stunning allure.

child with butterfly

You make everything glorious and I am Yours —
what does that make me? ~ David Crowder

We discover these transitional metamorphosis times are at times excruciating. The refinement often dredges up painful memories, sometimes flashing in so suddenly we are crushed, bleeding and crying out for relief. Other times we simply receive revelations, pouring liquid light into our aching hearts. In this submitting to every God-ordained change we learn what we would never know were it not for the liquefaction times, when all we knew of ourselves has passed away. This precarious, terrifying stage where we know we weren’t who we were but aren’t quite who we will be. It’s scary being soup.

And to submit to entering the chrysalis whenever Dad says it’s time.

But the good news is while we’re helpless on the inside, outside we’re surrounded by an impenetrable shell each metamorphosis time. We are completely cupped in our Daddy’s strong hands.cupped butterflyI cling to you,
and your hand keeps me safe.
~ Psalm 63:8

As we emerge all weak and quivering, drying our wings, we try our new selves on for size. Clinging to Him, we absorb living Light and strength for whatever is coming. We gaze into the beams of overwhelming Love, aware of a stirring deep inside. Excitement builds and bubbles out — we know whatever’s coming it’s going be amazing. It’s going to be impossible for who we were but totally doable for who we’ve become. We know we’re going to look back on the helpless time and say without a doubt…

It was worth it.

It always is.

And as we feel our wings dry, they begin beating in time with the breeze around us…We feel ourselves pulled from the branch where our former home hangs, shriveled.

And we take to the sky and soar!
We laugh up into our Maker’s face because the updraft is Holy Spirit wind.  And underneath are Daddy’s Everlasting Arms.

blue butterfly cloudy sky

 

 

 

They Caught Glimpses

blue universe

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“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

“‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’”

~ As dictated by the Holy Spirit to the prophet Jeremiah, some 600+ years before Jesus’ birth

 

I’ve been reading the “-Iahs” lately. You know, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah… those famous prophets of old whose works crowd the oldest part of the oldest best-seller of all time. Realizing they only had snatches of the book of books we enjoy today, only the Torah, and nothing of the Jesus we are so familiar with — has me intrigued. These prophets knew very little, all things considered, of God’s promised Savior. But they were given missions from God himself, messages for their contemporaries and those who would later read their works. They were conduits of the Holy Spirit’s urgent press to scribe what they couldn’t help but write. Thru them God told His people of the Promised One to come. The One they would never see on this Earth.

Now Jesus always existed as the Son, present with the Father from before time began. He knew before the foundations of the Earth were set the full extent of His suffering and the joy it would bring His heart (and, one day, ours). He knew. He was there. And He couldn’t help Himself. He came to Earth in His pre-Incarnation, appearing as the Angel of the Lord, as recorded throughout the Old Testament, carrying messages and encouragement. He frequently interacted with Earth’s inhabitants, though not as one of them… yet.

But those He visited? They crouched in terror, and with increasing wonder watched His word made into events that shaped them and their descendants. Shaped us who read of them in His Word thousands of years later. We read of these looking back, seeing with eyes greater than our own, with Holy Spirit-energized understanding. We see the prophecies of the coming Messiah and wonder at their precise fulfillment.

But those who were writing all of this down? What of the men experiencing the pain and joys of citizenship in this broken nation? This stripling of a country whose men, women and children, through the centuries, have been hunted down, persecuted, killed in the millions, these citizens of a barely preserved Israel? They caught glimpses. They studied, digging deep as the Holy Spirit came on them, to understand more of the blurred images handed them.

They faithfully wrote all they could, knowing they would likely never see any of its fulfillment in their lifetime. They wrestled with the anguish of apostasy in their brethren, marveling at God’s persevering mercy and grace. The Israelis would be broken down to almost extinction. They would be punished severely for rejecting their own God. But they would be restored as they turned from their wickedness,  tear-soaked faces, eyes barely able to gaze  into the eyes of a forgiving Dad. And to them Messiah would come — as one of them.

They would someday, as their Messiah did, as we do now — call Him Abba, Daddy. This shocking familiarity would rock the world around them, the audacity of running into a holy God’s throne room, leaping into His open arms, cuddling in His lap. They would flock to Him, reject Him, slowly trickle back to Him in deep humility. The end-times will see the nation of Israel recognize their Messiah at last.

But those to whom the prophecy was given? All those “-Iahs”? They peered into the mists, writing feverishly, anticipating what they would never see on Earth.

But several hundred years after they died, those faithful soothsayers would follow the risen Christ out of Paradise, the singing and dancing spoils of war won on the cross, a shouting train of captives, following His shining form into Heaven itself. They are the good and faithful servants of old, who gave us the promise of the Promised One to come.

bible book business christ

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I can’t help but think how ungrateful I often am of the treasure I hold in the Word of God. This book of 66 books, each one carefully crafted, Holy-Spirit breathed: I have more at my fingertips than any of the writers of this book. For I have all, from Genesis to Revelation, beginning and end. I have this gift to savor, a book many are killed for possessing — all over the world — right now. Oh God, forgive me for taking this invaluable book for granted, for pushing it away for temporary pleasures. Teach me to love it, to live in its ageless truths.

And let me never forget those who scribed it. They stand in your presence, basking in Your pleasure and approval. They who only caught glimpses now see fully what we will also someday share. And we, together with them,  have all eternity to grasp what we can only catch now as bright, beautiful glimpses.

asphalt dark dawn endless

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