Did you know that we, you and I, can be butterflies? I have to admit, I don’t think we can grow wings or survive on nectar. However, I’m convinced God constructed the transformation that results in butterflies as a parable for our lives.
From the time we were born, we have the ability to become something strikingly beautiful. It may take us a while to get there, but if we stay true to our design we will.
Like a butterfly, we start out as caterpillar or worms as the Bible has described us. A worm in Biblical times represented something harmful. In essence it was what infested something that was dead and decaying.
In other words, the picture is not pretty.
God Himself calls Jacob a “lowly worm.”1 In effect we, as humans because of our sinful state, are the lowliest of lows. God says all have sinned and fall short of His glorious standard.2 We fail every day. Already it sounds very discouraging.
We are like Monarch caterpillars, crawling on and feeding only on milkweed plants. Our view of life is limited to the perspective from ground level. We consume as much as we can. We know little beyond what is going on right in front of us.
We have no clue that resident within us is the ability to change into a being that can soar and see things from God’s perspective. There will be a time, if we submit to the process, that our entire existence is not just eating everything in sight.
A caterpillar has no concept of this. He only exists. Inside him, though, is the reality that there must be something more. In the book, Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus, a caterpillar named Stripe decides, “There must be more to life than just eating and getting bigger.”3 I totally relate to Stripe!
He encounters many caterpillars all trying to climb to the top of a pillar of caterpillars. He doesn’t know why they are doing this, but it seems that success must be getting to the top. Along the way he meets Yellow, a pretty little caterpillar. They decide this clawing to get the top isn’t where it’s at, so they crawl off into the grass to be alone.
They romp in the grass, eat and get fat. However, Stripe keeps wondering, “There must be still more to life.” He climbs back up the pillar. In the meantime, Yellow meets an older caterpillar who teaches her the true meaning of her life is to be a butterfly where she can “really love: the kind of love that makes new life.”3
I won’t tell you the ending. You should get the book, which is awesome. The point is pretty obvious, eh? There really is more to life than eating.
You and I are caterpillars. However the same verse that quotes God as calling Jacob a worm also says this, “Don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.”4 All the willpower in the world will not turn a worm into a butterfly. Only God can do that. He is our only hope.
This beautiful change only happens in the chrysalis where the worm dies and emerges as something completely different, yet exactly what God designed. It is the reason the chrysalis is so magical and mysterious. It happens because God placed the design for the butterfly in the ugly, crawling, leaf-eating worm. It’s purpose was resident all the time.
The caterpillar, though, has to do something to make the change happen. It has to attach itself to a limb and hang. If it does not, no butterfly will emerge. The process itself calls to the caterpillar. The caterpillar knows something more must be required.
You and I know, too. We know there is more required of us than eating everything in sight. Imagine if there was a caterpillar who never got the message to turn into a chrysalis. At the rate a caterpillar eats and grows, it could be the caterpillar that takes over the world! Or at the very least, it could be me.
All my life I knew there was something more than eating. Even when I attached myself to Christ and attempted to become new, somehow there was still a bit of self-effort. This whole process of dying to myself didn’t happen completely. It seemed that I had a partial regeneration. I accepted Christ. I identified with Him. I called Him my savior, but I never surrendered one crucial habit that held me captive.
Was I a Christian? Yes, I was. Even though I had accepted His grace for salvation, I had not accepted His grace for surrendering the things that held me captive. Processed sugar and gluten are my nemeses. Yours may be different. It can be anything that controls you to the point that you can’t give it up.
In order to become what God designed me to be, I had to die to these things I longed for. It was like a death and a reassembling of who I was. I was a super, morbidly obese woman. Who was I without that identity?
To find out I had to go through a metamorphosis, a complete change. I was headed one direction. I had to come to a full stop. Turn around. And start in a different direction. Walking through the chrysalis stage is like walking through death.
“In the change from being a caterpillar to becoming a butterfly, you’re nothing more than a yellow, gooey sticky mess,”5 Ted Forbes said.
The process of change is horrible to think about, but necessary if you really want to transform and not merely change out of your caterpillar suit and put on a pair of butterfly wings. To actually shed skin, allow your body to dissolve, reconstruct a new body, grow wings and actually fly is more than a simple costume change now isn’t it?
Ah, but it is so worth it to really become all you were designed to be before you were even born.6 It’s soaring instead of crawling. It’s living instead of dying. It’s depending on grace instead of works.
It’s a process that is far from being tasteless and bland. For the butterfly it’s a sweet change.
1Isaiah 41:14 NLT,
2 Romans 3:23 NLT
3 Paulus, Trina. Hope for the Flowers. New York: Newman, 1972. Print.
4 Isaiah 41:14 NLT
5 Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – Some Ideas on Managing Change.” Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – Some Ideas on Managing Change. Web. 20 May 2014.
6 Psalm 139:16 NLT
Teresa Shields Parker is a wife, mother, business owner, life group leader, speaker and author of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor and Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Sugar Addiction. Get a free chapter of her memoir on her blog at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.