The life cycle of butterflies fascinates me. Last year, my preschoolers brought home a handmade, colorful diagram carefully constructing the process of the caterpillar hatching from an egg, growing in size by eating everything in sight, wrapping itself into a cocoon, then popping out as a beautiful butterfly. In my younger years, I assumed the conversion of caterpillar to butterfly was as simple as the larva growing wings. Then, I read an article intricately detailing the dissolution of the caterpillar and the formation of a uniquely new creature, the butterfly. I was amazed and inspired by the symbolism of new life.
My journey has been one similar to that of a caterpillar to butterfly metamorphosis. I have experienced a complete transformation of mind and spirit through the work of the Lord.
Before I allowed God to perform a transformation within me, I lived a life void of the joy of knowing Jesus deeply. Despite growing up in the church and professing belief in God, I felt worthless and unlovable. I allowed myself to believe the negative thoughts flooding my mind daily – I’m a failure, I’ll never be good enough, my faith is not strong. On the outside, my cocoon looked like an ordinary chrysalis but on the inside, I was melting in darkness. I was constantly seeking the approval of man, looking to others to validate my worth, repeatedly falling short and feeling empty. I didn’t understand that God already loved me enough to satisfy all my longings for acceptance. I would read devotions and books on how to find complete fulfillment in the Lord but just couldn’t get my heart to comprehend the truth of what my head was telling me.
Then one day, the Lord used a friend of mine to unlock a buried experience of abuse I had as a child. My brain protected me from the incident for over three decades, filing the memory as a bad dream or as happening to someone else. Now, I was faced with the knowledge that, no, it was not a bad dream and, yes, it had happened to me. At a young age, the seeds of shame were planted and grew deep roots into the emotional pathways of development in my mind. My insecurity riddled my ability to love others because I simply could not love myself.
As I began the difficult journey of addressing the effect this traumatic incident was having on my life, I realized my desperate need for change. Shame enslaved me, confining me to the cocoon, preventing me from experiencing the life I was divinely designed to live. It was time to allow God to dissolve my caterpillar self and create my butterfly self.
With the guidance of a Christian counselor, I participated in a desensitization and reprocessing method which integrated my faith in an unbelievable way. While creating a safe place in which my mind could go to when feeling fearful or anxious, Jesus showed up. I experienced an overwhelming sense of comfort as His presence became palpable for the first time in my life. He took my hand and led me away from the darkness of fear and insecurity I had grown accustomed to living in.
As we walked together, the darkness began to fade in the distance. I felt the weight of my shame lifting as we arrived in an open field of brightly colored, tall wildflowers swaying gently in the cool breeze. We stopped walking and I took inventory of my new surroundings – the clear, cloudless blue sky, the warmth of the brightly shining sun on my skin, the peace invading my heart. I looked up into Jesus’ radiantly glowing face; His expression of sheer adoration flooded my spirit with foreign, fantastic feelings of being fully known, unconditionally loved, and completely forgiven in spite of my past. My heart finally understood my identity as His child, hinging my value on that fact alone.
My encounter with Jesus gave me the courage and strength to break the barrier of the cocoon and crawl out. No longer would I live in fear and insecurity, looking to others for approval. I realized another human could never provide the overflowing love Jesus poured into my heart. As I began to comprehend His opinion of me as a pure, priceless piece of art, the negative thoughts became invalid, transient ideas reflecting my circumstances rather than my identity.
Once a butterfly leaves the cocoon she can’t just crawl back in if the world seems scary or unsafe. The same goes for me – leaving the cocoon means leaving my old, harmful habits behind and trusting God to be with me no matter what life brings. It means purposefully utilizing a new way of thinking, no longer avoiding painful experiences, but allowing God teach me how He wants to use them for His glory.
Before a butterfly can take flight, she spreads her wings to allow them to dry. This part is crucial – her wings are wet from the transformation and she cannot fly until they are fully extended and dry. A substance called hemolymph courses through the veins of her wings, filling them with strength and stability. In a similar way, God pours His Holy Spirit into us, providing the nourishing strength and spiritual confidence we need to fly.
Butterflies are reminders of my metamorphosis as I continue this earthly journey through the treacherous mountains and beautiful valleys of life with Jesus by my side. Although insecurity intermittently threatens my confidence, escaping to my safe place evaporates any thought contradicting the truth of who I am as a new creation. I have been given a new heart and a new spirit has been put in me – I will never be the same.