“Cadapiddar”. All I have to do is say my younger-self’s version of “caterpillar” to my father, and he smiles. As I child, I loved caterpillars. I was even given a “bug” house once – a beautiful little mesh-and-wood box that had a lace handle and a cute door on hinges – in order to keep the caterpillars I would occasionally capture and study. See, really, what I wanted to witness was a new-formed butterfly breaking out of her chrysalis. And I was a smart enough tyke that I knew I had to either find a chrysalis, or capture a “cadapiddar” and wait for its change.
The caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis still fascinates me to this day. It’s one of those “every day” miracles that I find thrilling – like the smell of wood smoke or the millions of stars visible on a clear night deep in the Rockies. Rarely am I as encouraged in my journey as when I contemplate the journey a caterpillar has to take in order to become a butterfly.
I mean, have you ever thought about it? It starts out as this fuzzy, little worm (sometimes cute, sometimes absolutely disgusting) that inches along the ground, working its way from leaf to leaf, having to struggle to every place it goes. And then, one day, it clamps down tight onto a thin branch or leaf and starts spinning this incredible chrysalis out of silk. But once THAT demanding task is fulfilled, the caterpillar’s journey is just beginning. There is still SO much for it to do! Once the chrysalis is complete, the pudgy little wormy body of the caterpillar starts turning into mush. Really and truly! MUSH! Can you imagine your body turning into mush? Talk about scary! As its body continues to mush-ify, legs and wings start to develop. Scientists say that most of the mass of the caterpillar’s body is transformed into energy in order to form the delicate butterfly body. SO much work! And everything that poor little caterpillar knew – the dirt beneath its belly, the crunch of leaves in its mouth, the wide, open blue sky above it – is all gone.
And this is the part of the caterpillar’s journey that encourages me so much. This life – all my experiences, both the good and bad – are part of my journey to becoming the woman God is calling me to be. They’re my silk chrysalis (sometimes it feels more like concrete than silk, I’ll be the first to admit). But sometimes, in order to get rid of what He doesn’t want to be part of my newly-forming self, He has to put me through a “mush” period. The butterfly only has to live through it once. I’ve had to, and will have to, live through it multiple times. It’s always a painful experience – getting rid of addictions, of changing life-patterns (like fear), and of letting go of those things (or people or activities or dreams) that I hold most dear. In the middle of those emotion-ridden, lonely, heart-shattering times, I can’t say that I want to be there, or that I’m enjoying it. In fact, I often ask God how He’s going to get anything good out of this. However, all of the things during that time that He asks me to give up, or surrender, or to even have the courage to begin, have been preventing me from sprouting the wings and flying, as God originally intends for me.
Have you ever watched a butterfly hatch from its chrysalis? If you get the chance to watch, you should. The butterfly pushes herself out of the chrysalis, and then just hangs there, as if she doesn’t know what to do. She spreads her wings, needing to let them dry and stretch after being confined so long in the silken case. But she looks so awkward, just sitting there. She looks as if she doesn’t know what to do. Sometimes, when she first beats her wings, it’s almost as if she’s startled herself. To me, watching her awkwardly stretch her paper-thin wings, watching her beginning to figure out that she no longer has a furry worm body that must crawl everywhere, but now has the body of a dancer, and can go wherever the wind takes her, is one of the most beautifully awkward things a person can witness on earth.
But if she just sat there, stayed on the branch and didn’t use her wings at all, how sad would that be? It would be silly and incredibly heart-breaking. And not at all what God intended – for the now-butterfly, or for you. Once hatched, you’re not perfect; that’s not going to happen on this broken planet, but you’ve got your wings, and God has huge plans for those wings. So stretch them out – dry them out. Beat them once, twice, three times. Feel a slight breeze coming. Hold your breath, and let the gentle puff of air take you where He wants you to go. You’re going to feel uncoordinated at first, but that’s just fine. New things often make us feel slightly awkward. But you’re a butterfly, so whatever you do will look graceful to all the worms still bumping around on the ground. Listen carefully to His voice, spread your wings and fly.