Lessons from Nature Day 4: Complete Transformation – The Monarch Butterfly
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, ESV)
A monarch butterfly is a sight to behold. Their coloration and almost whimsical flight patterns capture the attention of young and old alike. Oftentimes, though, as I see one fluttering by, I’m reminded of what they once were. The journey to such beauty involves some pretty strange things. They start out as an egg the size of the tip of a pin. About four days later, they hatch into a minuscule caterpillar that eats everything in sight. Need I remind you of the hilariously cute children’s book, “The Hungry Caterpillar”? In about 2 weeks or less, the minuscule caterpillar has eaten enough to grow to a length of about 2 inches—truly exponential growth. At the end of those two weeks, the caterpillar enters the pupa stage where it becomes encased in a cocoon of sorts called a chrysalis. After another couple of weeks, the chrysalis breaks open, and out climbs a monarch butterfly. Unfortunately, after all that work, the vast majority of these beautiful creatures only live for 2-3 weeks. But one thing is sure: the end result of the process (the butterfly) looks nothing like any stage along the way. Who would put a caterpillar and a butterfly side by side and say they look alike? The process of metamorphosis results in total transformation.
There are a couple of lessons that believers can learn from the monarch butterfly. The first is probably the most on-the-nose. The emergence of the butterfly is a beautiful picture of a new believer. The earlier stages provide no beauty. Who has ever marveled at the beauty of a chrysalis? Or an egg? And while it might be fun to feel a caterpillar crawling across your skin (unless you hate that feeling, of course), they aren’t particularly beautiful. And so, what was once rather ugly is transformed into something beautiful. And what were we in our sins? Isaiah states that we as sinners are as pleasant as “bruises and sores and raw wounds” (Isaiah 1:6). But then, a person becomes a Christian and emerges as something completely different; Paul calls it a “new creation” in 2 Corinthians 5:17. So here is the lesson: as a believer, I shouldn’t resemble who I was before salvation in any way. If I am a new creation, I should act like one and live like one. Imagine a beautiful butterfly trying to cram itself back into a chrysalis! Or crawl on a leaf like a caterpillar! It’s a new creation entirely! Let’s act like it, then. The words we say to each other, the attitudes we display, our allegiances, our activities—do these consistently prove I am a new creation in Christ? They absolutely should. I know that our present culture demands assimilation, along with division and discord. But what do the Scriptures command? “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.” It’s okay to be different.
Another lesson we can learn relates to that final 2-3 weeks living as a butterfly. I don’t think there is much fulfilment prior to those weeks—nothing fun about being an egg! And being a caterpillar might be cool for a bit since you get to eat everything. Weight gain is encouraged, young caterpillar! And the claustrophobia of living in a chrysalis is a bit unnerving. But when they emerge, how awesome must it be? They are able to do something they’ve never done before—fly. Arguably, they live their best life as a butterfly. I can’t help but think that this should define the life of a Christian. Our best life is the life we now live, not the one before Christ. A life defined by devotion, service, humility, and kindness is a life that will truly be fulfilling. And here’s the other thing: it will go by in a flash—hopefully, longer than 2-3 weeks, of course! But I should live every day as if it were my last. Then I will leave this earth with no unsaid apologies, no held-back expressions of love, no unfinished work for God. I’ll live a transformed, God-honoring life!