A few years back, I accompanied my twin daughters along with the rest of their grade school class on a field trip to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I had plans to explore and engage in hands-on experiences, so when we were immediately ushered into the auditorium to watch a 3D film about butterflies at the start of the day, I was less than thrilled. I didn’t expect what I was about to observe to have such a profound impact on me.
My thoughts for the remainder of the day were tethered to the miraculous transformation that happens in the life cycle of the butterfly. One creature can completely transform into an altogether new being. As I watched the caterpillar surrender to the process of transformation to become a butterfly, I wanted to find an easy parallel to the transformation possible in the human heart. But I found that to be difficult. The caterpillar-turned-butterfly is complex, and humans are even more complicated. Like puberty, which happens in humans as we grow older, it’s not optional. We develop and change into more mature and sophisticated versions of ourselves.
But, unlike the butterfly, we have not transformed into something altogether new. The butterfly’s life cycle reveals the truth about what can happen in our spirit when we meet God and submit to his transforming power. Transformation is not just the next portion of the cycle in our lives; it is a process in which we choose to surrender willingly, or we can choose to stay the same.
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have heard the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God- truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:21-24).
This passage in Ephesians speaks to the power of the Spirit to renew our thoughts and attitudes and invites us to put on our new nature.
So how do we do this? First, we must choose to throw off our old nature, which is not easy. We have the promise of transformation through Christ; it is a matter of whether or not we choose to grab hold of it and step into it.
Transformation happens when we abide.
Abide: To wait. To remain stable or fixed in a state.
The butterfly’s life cycle reveals a truth that helped me grab hold of the biblical principle of abiding. The caterpillar creates a cocoon and enters a closed space, surrounded on all sides. It is in this hidden place that the transformation process occurs. So it is with us if we want to experience transformation. The old parts have to die so that new things can live—a principle of living in an upside-down Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
Transformation is about being, stopping, resting, and waiting. That is what it means to abide. When we steep ourselves in the word of God and the presence of God, that is where we become a new creation.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world” (James 4:8).
When I picture a cocoon, I imagine the hands of God closed in tightly around me, holding me in and fully covering me. In this place of coming close to God, his character and kindness are revealed to me once again. I am not to live fractured and divided, and neither are you.
God made us to display his glory to the world.
Once the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it possesses new parts and abilities that were not there before. It no longer only treads on the ground but is now a creature of the sky. The butterfly can see and experience things that it was not even aware of before.
The caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly is a picture of the promise of God to us. He has new things to show us and a redeemed perspective for us to see.
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father” (John 15:7-8).
God created us to be like him. Abide in him. Bear much fruit and bring glory to our Father. We are not only citizens of this earth; we are citizens of heaven. Like the butterfly, we were created to experience life from another perspective, a heavenly one.