“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
The first weekend in October, we were excited to get the mail and discover that we had received the caterpillars we had ordered! We put the cup with them in the kitchen where we could see them but the boys couldn’t disturb them. Each morning when we came downstairs, we would watch as they would eat and move, basically getting fatter and lazier (it seemed). The boys loved to watch them and “check the caterpillars” and would make observations. Eventually they hung upside down in their J-shape and formed the chrysalises. When we were sure that they were in their cocoon, my husband & I followed the instructions that came with them carefully, removing and pinning the small paper that they were attached to into the butterfly habitat we had purchased.
But then NOTHING. Each day the boys & I would go down to the kitchen eager to see what was happening only to be greeted by the same nothingness. I finally made a mental note to call the company to complain because I assumed that the transformation was never going to happen. Our caterpillars were dead (they have to die, I remember reading, to transform into butterflies) and nothing else was happening.
Then two days ago, we saw it… one beautiful butterfly was in our precious cage. This morning, the other two emerged. And it struck me that sometimes I’m impatient when God is making an incredible transformation. I assumed incorrectly that nothing was happening “behind the scenes.” I desired to see the beautiful transformation but missed the step of the work that was needed to see the butterfly come to life. We don’t see the work; it happens in the cocoon.
I’m hoping you see the parallels in your own life, like I did in mine. I was struck that we need to wait at times for the Lord’s perfect plan. We need to put our hope and trust in Him, and then we need to be patient.
I also remembered a story I had read about my friend’s butterfly experiment a long time ago. At the time I read it, I was severely overweight and feeling VERY hopeless. And I bawled at reading that the caterpillar had to die (I mean literal tears flowing from my cheeks!). Why, God, I asked…why do I have to die for something beautiful to happen? I felt His amazing presence remind me to die to myself and allow Him to transform me. It’s not an easy process, but it’s a worthwhile one. Are we willing to wait on Him and His plan? Will we trust Him to renew our strength?
Because I was so touched by my friend’s story, I had to put excerpts from it below. The author of it agreed to let me share it, and I cut some portions out, so we pick up near the middle, but it is a great way to explain what happens to these ‘ugly’ caterpillars as they become what God has destined them to be:
As we came down stairs for our breakfast, an amazing act of God was occurring right before our eyes. Our caterpillar was turning into his cocoon. We knew the time was approaching, because the night before he had gone to the top of the jar and hung upside down in a J-formation. His body dangled downward, while his face pointed upward.
As he went into his cocoon, he shook and shed his skin. The skin moved in an upward position and was–as if by “magic”–transformed into the chrysalis. When the skin reached the top, the caterpillar thrashed his body–now completely enveloped in the cocoon–back and forth, circling around so that his skin would become the very thing that created an anchor for him to hold securely to the top of the jar. And then everything went calm. No more movement. And, at that moment, I knew that our baby was gone. Did you know the caterpillar actually dies? I didn’t know that, until we began our butterfly lessons. He dies. There are only cells that live to create that pretty butterfly. We will not see him again.
I found the whole experience to be both amazing and disturbing. I watched this creature that I had taken care of from birth just willingly pass before my eyes. He knew that better things were ahead of him, that he would soon reach his full (his best) potential. He worked hard for his death. He approached it with eagerness. And to think…he started his death in the shape of a J (for Jesus?), making sure that his face pointed upward. God’s creations really were created to give Him glory…weren’t they?
Then we were greeted with a beautiful Monarch Butterfly, opening and closing his intricate wings. He was BEAUTIFUL! I nearly got tears in my eyes when I saw him.
This butterfly experience was profound for me. I feel like I am living his story, in my own spiritual way. I can relate to the “good life” of sitting around, not being at my full potential, just eating, sleeping and…well…going to the bathroom. For me, life had somehow been boiled down to food. What would I eat next? When could I eat it? Could someone just put me on a pile of food, and leave me alone? And…unlike the monarch caterpillar who would rather starve than eat a leaf he doesn’t like…I would eat anything that crossed my path. I doubled in size in a short amount of time. And I just kept eating.
But, when I confessed my sin and genuinely began to repent and seek God…I started hanging upside down in a J position as if to say “JESUS! Everything about this change starts by pointing my face toward you!” I can’t imagine it’s easy for a caterpillar to hang in the J position for 24 hours. I mean, in caterpillar-years, that’s about 1/8 of their life spent in this position. All this to say, the J position is part of the process, and probably takes far longer than any of us would like it to take. But it is critical to remain low, while facing upward. No matter how long it takes.
And then there’s the wretched process of shedding the skin…the putting off of the old self. The wiggling and writhing and contorting that occurs. It definitely appears to be a painful process. But it is a miracle, really. And nothing less. When you see it happening, it does appear to be “magic”; however, we know that there is nothing magical about it. It is purposeful–because God purposed it through Christ.
Then, the swirling and whirling that must occur in order to secure ourselves to the only “hook” (or anchor) that can hold us where we need to be. Do you know how small that caterpillar hook is? So small. But is is STRONG. It supports the weight of the entire process of metamorphosis that occurs. It withstands wind gusts and weather changes. It is small, but mighty. And it is critical. Without that hook, the entire process would end. If the cocoon isn’t hanging, the butterfly will never hatch. The process is lost. My hook is Christ. The God who knit me and formed me, striped me down to nothing and then holds me secure. And I wait…
I die. And I wait. I die. But He lives. And I am transformed. The new self will look nothing like the old. But it will take awhile. Perhaps longer than the caterpillar ever lived. But it is peaceful. And change is happening.
I think I am now going safely into my cocoon. It has been a few years of hanging low while facing upward; then beginning the painful process of dying. But now I am beginning to sense the silence. I can feel the urgent need to hide away for a time, enveloped in the protection that only God could have created for me. I sense how still I will need to be for this change to occur. This phase could seem long…but change is happening.
It isn’t easy to become a butterfly. But it also isn’t hard. It means dying…then resting…and ultimately trusting. Trusting Christ for the final change to come.
And the change is coming.
I’M GOING TO FLY!
If you’re tired of waiting, hold on…remember God is not slow as we think of slowness. He keeps His promises, He is faithful and He knows the perfect timing. As the above verse reminds us, He wants everyone (including us in our selfish sin) to come to repentance. When we do, we begin to see the transformation that only He can do within our lives, as we die to our own selfish desires and He works in the background to make us into a new beautiful creature that far surpasses anything we could become on our own. Patience, my husband reminded me as I was irritated that no butterflies were emerging from the cocoons. We need to have faith instead of fear, worship instead of worry, and peace instead of impatience. Do we believe God to be trustworthy? Do we believe He can transform our lives? Then, let’s live like it!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder you give us in the caterpillar to butterfly process. Only You could have created something so meaningful and so wonderful to watch. Please help us not grow impatient in the process. Remind us that change is happening, even when we can’t “see” it. Help us feel Your presence and trust you. Our hope is in You…may we die to ourself, repent of our sin and wait patiently on You. And God, we humbly ask to see this beauty emerge from our lives. Make us the best us we can be – the person You had in mind when You created us. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!