One of the more magical events in nature is the transformation of a caterpillar (a fuzzy worm, really) into a butterfly. The delicate, beautifully colored and graceful creature flits from flower to flower making everything seem more alive and beautiful. But how does it make that transition?
I don’t pretend to be a scientific genius by any means but I’ve always been intrigued by the process. In essence the caterpillar spins a cocoon, called a chrysalis, in which the caterpillar body breaks down and dies and a new body is formed from those very cells. The butterfly breaks out of the chrysalis and in the process blood is pumped into its beautiful wings. Then it flies away. Here’s the thing: if you try to help by cracking open the chrysalis yourself the butterfly will never fly. The very act of having to break out is what gives the butterfly the ability to fly free.
What a picture for us! So often we want to be bailed out of difficult situations, promising ourselves that we won’t get snagged in those bad habits or consequences again. But I’ve found that it’s the very discipline of breaking out of bad behaviors and patterns that gives us the ability to live in freedom from then on. I’ve mentioned before how I used to pray that God would make me skinny as I slept and I promised to stay that way afterwards. I usually felt God saying something like, “How about you stop eating everything in sight?” Obviously, He said it really kindly and lovingly…
I know a young woman who was in a very difficult marriage for several years where there was infidelity, financial mismanagement and utter lack of support. She finally had to get out the marriage for the sake of her child as well as her own well-being. For several years she diligently worked, paid off all debt and built a life with great friends and family. After a few years she re-married and still lives a modest but financially sound life. God has blessed her so much with a wonderful husband, family and home. It was a very difficult time getting out of that ‘cocoon’ of debt but the disciplines she learned in that time have served her well.
The same was true for me personally…
A couple years ago I made the decision to change the way I interact with food. It had become my go-to answer for everything…boredom, celebration, sadness, sickness…always, food was my first response. In these last couple of years I have learned to enjoy food but not worship it. Had I woken up skinny (as I had prayed!) I would have had no tools to live free of food’s merciless hold on me. In my marriage, the years Budd and I worked on communication, finances, parenting and conflict resolution paid off in the peaceful, sane years of his retirement before he died. We needed to break out of our own chrysalises as well as our joint one! We developed the necessary tools with much work and much more prayer. All of it was worth it.
I don’t know what you face these days that feels like a cocoon or place of death for you, but don’t give up. I encourage you not to try and find the fastest way out, but rather the best way out. Let your difficult situation be the very training ground to learn tools and habits that lead you to life and freedom. Get whatever help you need but also put in the work of transformation. Caterpillars may be cute but butterflies are beautiful, free and bring life. It is a worthy journey for that fuzzy worm.
Proverbs 4:5-7 Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. 6 Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. 7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.
Philippians 1:6And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.