Not caterpillars forever

I have been looking over some of my posts of late. I seem a bit flaky, lurching from stability to crisis and back again. How come? How can I be sorted one minute and stressed the next? I travel in a straight line for a while, and then I stop and circle before I find my way back to the path.

Some days I just forget where I’m going.

There are two caterpillars sitting on a leaf when a butterfly flutters by. The first caterpillar turns to the second and says, ‘You’ll never catch me going up in one of those!’

I was prompted by this fine joke to look up the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Pretty amazing by anyone’s standards. And also pretty instructive. The caterpillar eats, grows and sheds a skin. It eats, grows (anyone else relating to this?) and sheds. It eats, grows and sheds. You get the picture.

In a letter to the Christian community in Rome Paul talks about how believers grow as they respond to God.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you will be able to test and approve God’s will – his perfect and pleasing will.
Romans 12 v 2

I’m happy enough to stand out and not conform when it suits me, but I suspect that’s not what Paul, the apostle who endured shipwreck, imprisonment and torture, had in mind. But he also says that a life responding to God’s love won’t simply improve my morals or make me nicer, but transform me. My imagination is unable to conceive what this might look like. So I take it on faith that change is a given.

Whether it’s changing country or teacher, or job or house, change cuts us loose from normality; suddenly all things are uncertain, shifting, impermanent. Almost as soon as it starts, what you have known starts sliding away from you. What has been will never be again.

Christians are promised this amazing transformation but in the meantime, we just see more of the same. We shed some old behaviours or habits or addictions or whatever, we look forward to being different and yet… we look the same. We can begin to doubt that anything is really different. That God has made a difference. We don’t fly to work or see through walls or, at least in the circles I move in, raise the dead. We can forget we’re moving towards something glorious.

Releasing the old to make way for the new is not a pretty or comfortable process. Think of the caterpillar’s bulk morphing, somehow, into a butterfly. Much like us. Like the caterpillar, all our baggage feeds into the process that produces a butterfly. We just have to take it on faith. And keep going.