The butterfly has, across the centuries, one of the most enduring symbols of transformation.
There are a number of stages that happen, but for the sake of brevity, let us limit them to: the caterpillar, the cocoon, the butterfly. What goes into the cocoon is not what comes out. It wouldn’t even be hard to imagine them as separate creatures entirely, rather than a matter of the caterpillar becoming what it is, a butterfly.
In The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, she uses the symbol of the butterfly to expound upon what it means to grow in life and faith. No one is born fully mature, and each of us must go through necessary stages to fully become what we are.
You see, we are not simply one thing at one point in life and then another thing later in life, rather, we are all on a path of “becoming.” A path of “becoming” what God intends for us to be. Granted we all might have the ability to derail that process for a while, but often, even our derailing serves the higher purpose at some point to help us become what we are called to be.
The task we have before us now, is understanding where this season of life that we find ourselves is in relation to our own “becoming.” Many of us might be caterpillars, while others might feel as though we are in a cocoon, and others may somehow be blossoming in their current situation. The thing is that we are not given the go-ahead to judge someone for where they are on their path, be jealous of where someone else might be on their path, or assume that we can rush the process for ourselves.
So here is the question: Where are you? Or, when are you? On your path of becoming who you are supposed to be, hidden in Christ, can you orient where you are?
It is important to assess this every so often for a few reasons.
- We must understand that our current comforts will not be forever.
- We must understand that our current discomfort/being dissolved will not be forever.
- We must understand that our current blossoming is for a purpose even larger than ourselves.
For a while now, I have been understanding salvation and transformation differently. Well, not so much differently as much as intertwined or perhaps even the same exact thing. The Christian tradition is full of commentaries and sermons and songs and poems and rants and art and tapestries devoted to the topics of salvation and transformation. But the reality is that these two things must exist “with confusion, separation, division or change” (that is a quote from the Chalcedonian Creed).
We cannot confuse salvation and transformation, neither can we separate them. We cannot divide them from each other as enemies, nor does one change into the other. Salvation and transformation exist as dance partners in the Christian faith journey. In fact, the butterfly, after having been transformed from being a caterpillar might even exclaim, “I was saved from being a caterpillar!”
So, all this goes to say, trust the process. Trust the slow process. There is no non-stop flight to Christian maturity, all of us must go through a time of restriction, of dissolving, of reforming, and re-emerging.
I am not a fan of the idea that God makes all things happen, but neither do I believe that this season caught God off-guard or gave Him a curveball that he couldn’t hit a home run with (did you like that reference, Pastor Steve?). The Holy Spirit has for a long time been understood as the person of the Trinity associated with regeneration and transformation.
May this season be filled with the Holy Spirit. May you trust the process. May you come to see that salvation and transformation are uniquely intimate. And may you be awake, aware, watchful, vigilant to your own becoming who you are as hidden in Christ.