Recently, I heard in my spirit “metamorphosis.” I thought about how that caterpillar becomes a butterfly. That wormy looking thing that only curious children could love becomes a beauty fluttering through the air that makes all pause in wonder. First it feasts, wraps itself in a cocoon, and turns to goop. The DNA is exactly the same from caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly. In the middle phase, if we could see inside, we would probably not even guess that the contents were alive. It looks more like slime, or something rotting. It looks dead inside.
That’s how it is with us. We get a inkling from God of why we were made. We are ready to be a butterfly, so ready, we think. We are hungry and devour the things of God. Nothing will satisfy but Him. More of Him makes us want more of Him. Then suddenly everything changes. We still want God, but feel very constricted. We are hidden. We remember it wasn’t so bad being a caterpillar. At least then, we knew what we were. The problem is we can’t go back, and we’re not sure we’ll ever be what we dreamed we’d be. We wonder if maybe it was our idea all along, not God’s. Now we feel silly. It’s dark in here, and we’re all alone. We can’t do a thing to make ourselves butterflies, and we just wait. Only Grace and Time can make a butterfly. We don’t know we already are butterflies. We always were.
James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4
Peter shares the same idea in a different way, “In all this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire– may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I Peter 1:6-7
Those things are true. So true. Sometimes they bring very little comfort, though. Maybe I’m the only one, but the reason that it’s hard to find joy in my troubles is that it doesn’t seem like I’m developing any endurance and character. In the fire, all the impurities rise to the top. So all I, and maybe everyone else, can see is my shortcomings in faith, endurance, character. If I could see it happening while it’s happening, it would be easy, but I can’t see. It’s dark inside that cocoon. I look nothing like the me I dreamed. I look so bad. I have to trust. We trust His good nature, and if we’ve been walking with Him for very long, we remember all the other times we were constricted and it seemed like nothing was happening, but mysteriously we were transformed. Metamorphosis.
We’re transformed from glory, to glory, to glory, but so often it doesn’t look glorious. If we look with natural eyes, sometimes all we see in ourselves and each other is a gob of gook. “I had such high hopes for him,” we say. Or, “I had such big dreams once,” because now those dreams have so unraveled that they are unrecognizable. Sometimes, we abandon people or the dream, not knowing that this is just part of the process. That’s why Jesus warned us against knowing anyone according to the flesh. He saw things by the Spirit. We need eyes of the Spirit to consider our own trial an opportunity, to consider that floundering soul beside us in process, and to keep seeing it that way until we or they are new. We need grace to abide in Him until the change comes.
Some time ago, my friend, Sue, who heads up our church prayer chain, wrote something like this in an email as she asked for prayer for a dire need. “Miracles are awesome. Needing a miracle feels really rough, though.” Those words pierced me with their truth. I will never forget it. It’s ok to be real about how rough it feels in the middle of it all. It’s ok to not have an answer for the one next to us that’s going through that. Every caterpillar needs a miracle. We’re all in the same boat. No butterflies exist apart from a miracle.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 brings me the most comfort in this season. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This affliction doesn’t feel light and momentary, unless I can see eternity. My prayer inside this cocoon is to see the unseen, the eternal. I need to see a God who never leaves, a Love that never fails, a Hand that is always reaching for me. I need to trust that there’s a plan to prosper us and not harm and a harvest that is eternal coming out of this season. Without that, I’d lose heart. Left to myself, I’m weak, but over and over again, I see Him. The love in His eyes, the gentleness in His touch, and the kindness of His words soothe and strengthen me until my change comes.
Jesus saw the joy set before Him in the garden and on the cross. That’s the only way He could walk the road to Calvary and commit Himself to His Father in His dying breath. He saw the unseen. He saw all of us butterflies able to fly with Him. He saw His Father looking pleased that He made a way for all of us caterpillars to become butterflies. And Jesus sees us butterflies now, even if we’re just a gob of gook inside the chrysalis. He’s hovering over us like He did the waters so many millenniums ago. He will call us out at just the right time. We’ll be beauty fluttering, and all will wonder at His mercy and goodness.