Is there any more widely used metaphor than the butterfly and change? I’d be hard pressed to come up with one. And yet, as I have been mulling over some big changes in life lately, the butterfly continues to come to mind first and foremost.
My conception of what happens to a caterpillar went in for a major over ride several years back. When my kids were very small, their Nana gave them a bunch of milkweed in a mesh container. The milkweed was covered in caterpillars munch, munch, munching away their days. We watched them through the netted house as they grew fatter and fatter and fatter. I knew nothing about caterpillars outside of the hungry one in the book we read every day. I knew that very soon these yellow and black striped cuties would wrap themselves tight into a blanket and begin a transformation.
Except that’s not how it works.
We watched patiently and carefully (which is very hard when your kids are in preschool) one afternoon as the chubby worms climbed to the top of their container and attached to the roof. They spun a little silk string and began the process of hanging. Just hanging. I waited and waited for a cocoon to shoot out of their tiny butts. Nothing. I had laundry to do and the kids had cartoons to catch up on so I walked away.
It wasn’t long, however, before I moseyed by and noticed that one of the caterpillars was encapsulated in a cocoon.
Crap. I missed it. How did it get there? So I sat down to watch again and noticed one of them was turning green. We had a full on Banner/Hulk situation on our hands! Who knew?!?!?! The caterpillar doesn’t grow a chrysalis! It turns into one!!!
I felt like this changed everything for me. Like a whole belief system had been knock off it’s axis.
(That might be slightly dramatic but it was big.)
It turns out the caterpillar transforms into a pod filled with goo. I’m sure that’s the scientific term so don’t even waste your time by looking it up. Then, after some time, which feels like years to a preschooler and the mom she questions about it every hour on the hour until a butterfly appears, the goo starts to build a butterfly.
The stuff of the butterfly is inside the caterpillar all along.
The caterpillar literally has to die to it’s self to be transformed into a beautiful butterfly. What it used to be ceases to exist and something short of a miracle shows up in it’s place. It doesn’t mean the caterpillar isn’t beautiful. It just means that it’s purpose was never to stay a caterpillar forever. The caterpillar was created to change.
It would seem that all of life is created for change. The only things that never change are dead or have never been alive in the first place.
So if life is change, if it’s in us all along and it’s who and what we are meant to be and do, why is it so hard? Why do we fight it?
I think the first step to accepting change is admitting that it’s a thing. Change is real and it happens whether we want it to or not. The only choice we get is how we will roll with it.
I suppose the caterpillar who does not want to be a butterfly could throw itself into the mouth of bird, but that’s not the way of the caterpillar. No, the caterpillar moves forward, eating what it needs to eat and then hanging on for dear life. The change literally bursts forth from within.
I want to be like the caterpillar. I want to trust that God has a bigger purpose for my life than scooting with my belly through the mud and brush. I want to be nourished by the life He’s given me, climb to the highest places, and trust that He’s about to make something beautiful explode from within me.
I don’t know if it’s painful for the caterpillar. It may be an awful experience, the wilting, the gooing, and the forming of wings. It may hurt like hell. But the soaring of a butterfly tells me that the pain is worth it.
Life is change. If God can bring such beauty from a caterpillar…what more can he pull out of me?