Analogy of our Spiritual Journey
-- by Grace Wiebe, June 2006
coming within a couple of days, hopefully...
by Grace Wiebe, June 2006
In January 2006, through a number of very interesting/encouraging situations, I felt that the Lord was wanting me to do some research into the life stages of a butterfly and to especially focus on the process of METAMORPHOSIS. I felt that although I had heard about the transformation, before, of being an analogy regarding our spiritual lives, that there was more to find out about this (at least for me - there are likely many who already knew/know these things! :)
So I began to pray about this and to do some internet research on this, and was totally amazed at what I was discovering! This has encouraged me greatly in the spiritual 'metamorphosis' that I feel I'm in, and hopefully some of these notes from will also be of encouragement to you as God brings you through metamorphosis in your lives as well, in His timing and ways!
My initial thoughts as I was praying about the whole cocoon/butterfly thing, before I did the research, were as follows:
HOW is the cocoon transformed/metamorphisized into a butterfly?
I had been thinking how we are TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING OF OUR MINDS....basically EATING THE WORD/EATING HIM....we are to 'drink His blood' and 'eat His flesh', etc...(I've been meditating a lot more on what that means, as well, and hope to include something on that on my web site before too long...)
I found out later in my research that apparently the ONLY job of the caterpillar is to eat and eat and eat and grow and grow and grow till it becomes time to go into the cocoon stage. Eventually this causes it to burst through its cocoon.
Another thought that came to me is that it's a TOTAL PARADIGM SHIFT to go from being a SLOW, often ugly land dweller to a beautiful creature who spends most of its time flying around....almost EVERYTHING would have to change for that metamorphosis to take place....this seems to be what's taking place in me, with us, and in the Church in these days. Even the way people are thinking of Church these days, and the way many are living out Body Life is very different than it has been, in many cases!
For example, growing numbers of people are desiring to be a part of 'the Church without walls' - reaching out into the marketplace. Another example is that the leadership structure is changing from a small group of leaders to an understanding that EVERYONE in the Body is needed in order to see God's purposes coming about in this generation. There is a growing change of perception from a focus on the Church to a focus on the Kingdom of God - of which the Church is a vital part! These paradigm shifts are often being increasingly lived out through marketplace ministry, house/simple churches, much greater involvement in social & justice issues, to name a few examples.
Another thought was how there are distinct stages of development into a butterfly.... egg, caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. All of them are very different from each other and each phase has a specific purpose - controlled by God and not the butterfly, although the caterpillar etc. has to cooperate and be involved in some aspects of these changes - but most of this, I imagine, is instinctual.
A question I had/have is how much is the caterpillar in the cocoon responsible for in terms of actually becoming a butterfly - does he cooperate or is it all God and His timing? Apparently, according to the research, the timing of the pupa in the cocoon turning into a butterfly is closely related to the environment its in in addition to other things being ready at the right time in its own development within the cocoon.
What kind of food does it eat in order to grow? HOW does it eat while in the cocoon stage? Cocoon is a resting? stage - before the 'new birth'... and YET even though in some ways the pupa is resting in the cocoon stage, it is also in that stage - the ugliest, seemingly weakest, quietest and most vulnerableof all stages - in the very process of changing and developing its wings, etc. etc. so it can emerge as the butterfly. So a lot is happening inside though it's not evident outside...
Another thought that came to mind was that the caterpillar's
destiny as a butterfly is built into it since the beginning (DNA)...inside,
it is the same before as when it's a butterfly....however, how
it does things and how it sees things
and the things it does are suddenly very different
for the most part...
This was a major truth that was starting to hit me as I was meditating on/praying about this....it seems that is what God has been focusing on in bringing me and others through further spiritual/emotional healing...that we would realize WHO WE ARE IN HIM and especially WHO HE IS IN US, because we have His DNA as believers in Jesus Christ, and who we are is the same in our earlier stages, too, and not only in our butterfly stage...we just haven't shifted paradigms into the butterfly stage, yet....
The actual transformation/metamorphosis process, which you will see below, is also VERY interesting and parallels spiritual warfare...
I've included some notes below and highlighted in PURPLE (signifying our royalty in Him - :) ) some of the aspects that I felt were relevant or interesting...
I also found it interesting that in the caterpillar stage, there are within that 5 STAGES called INSTARS.... INTERESTINGLY, when I checked out the biblical meaning for the symbol of the number 5, is ended up signifying God's GRACE!! I found that interesting, not just because of it being my name, but also because it's like God is perhaps?? saying the caterpillar stage is very much a time?? in our growth where we are becoming established in His grace. A verse which has been coming to mind a lot the past while is: 2 Peter 3:18 - "But GROW IN THE GRACE and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (NIV). This stage is followed by the cocoon/resting stage where what we have eaten helps to transforms us into the butterfly...
Also interesting is that the butterfly stage is the REPRODUCTIVE STAGE...fruitfulness!! - which is where God is in the process of leading us!! :) In fact, the MAIN JOB of an adult butterfly's life is to REPRODUCE. So the more we mature spiritually, the more fruitful we are to become - it is NATURAL to us to be that way IN THAT STAGE.
A key thought that I feel relates!!
The caterpillar does not make a butterfly out of itself so much as it finds the butterfly hiding within itself, and responds in extraordinary ways when it does. The more we also understand WHO CHRIST IS IN US and WHO WE ARE IN HIM, the more we also begin to respond in extraordinary ways as we increasingly 'walk by faith and not by sight'! - we fly!!
I also read how during the transition from cocoon to becoming a butterfly, the pupa is very vulnerable...(not surprising!!) This certainly seems to be true in our spiritual metamorphosis process as well!
The cocoon time is a 'protected period of development'
As I began to meditate on this process further, I began to see this metamorphosis process in all kinds of places in Scripture - though not specifically in a butterfly story - but it is a process which has been built into Scripture from beginning to end, it seems! How like God to give us these amazing natural analogies to help our hearts 'get it'!!
Below are some notes that I found helpful. I will also include my notes in PURPLE, as mentioned earlier.
POTENTIAL SYMBOLISM OF NUMBER 5 - perhaps reflecting the 5 stages of a butterflies' life and symbolizing God's grace over our lives and the various stages we go through. Don't we also go through 5 main stages in our lives? - baby stage, child stage, adolescent stage, adult/reproducing, senior stage?
"...Five - Grace, cross, atonement, life
Five is the creation plus another. The only possible answer to the corruption and death that is an inevitable part of the creation is Gods power of redemption. There is no aspect of creation and especially of mankind that deserves or could earn redemption. God can only give redemption as a free unmerited gift. There is an old fashioned word for this undeserved favor, grace. Five is the number of grace..."
The Fifth Day of Creation
We see the creation of the animals and life in general. They are given the commandment to multiply. We have already seen how that the creation itself is an act of grace on our behalf. But in particular the giving of life is an act of grace. In a sense this is also the day in which God provisioned the earth for the people he was going to create.
Life Cycle of a Butterfly - "Metamorphosis"
"What we tend to overlook, when we are first attracted to butterfly observation, is that the butterfly is the result of a much longer journey......a journey that is quite different from that of many creatures on this planet. The flight stage is the final statement......the last hurrah so to speak.
No doubt that during your early adventures you will become
increasingly aware of these other facets of a butterfly's life span but for
many these stages remain a mystery. Actually what occurs
prior to the flight stage of development is by far more intriguing and captivating.
As you gather information on the stages of butterfly development, scientifically
known as metamorphosis, please keep in mind that the way in which it ultimately
plays out can be species specific.
Egg Larva Pupa Butterfly
Obviously newly hatched caterpillars are minute little creatures, some virtually invisible to the naked eye but they are eating machines that grow very quickly. Growth does not occur during the flight stage. It is done strictly while in the larva stage and they can multiply in size by more than a thousand fold in no time. In a matter of a few weeks they can go from an egg, to a caterpillar, to a chrysalis, to another egg laying butterfly. For some species this process occurs only once during our season but for others two or three cycles can be completed before diapause, hibernation or migration must occur.
It all starts with the eggs which are very tiny to microscopic and generally, but not always, laid on the underside of host plant leaves either singly or in clusters. Host plants are located by the adult butterfly's ability to distinguish the plant's chemical signature. For many species the growing season for their host plants can extend for many months allowing for multiple broods.
Eggs may also be deposited near the area in which the host plant may be found. This condition arises when specific host plants have died off at their season end and the eggs are required to overwinter in order to take advantage of the following season's crop. So, depending on the time of year the eggs are laid will dictate when the eggs are predetermined to hatch. If they are laid early enough in the season they will come full term usually within a week or so, again depending on the species. If they are deposited late in the season the eggs may be required to wait until the following season to complete the remainder of the journey. An example of this scenario is best demonstrated by many of the Fritillaries that feed exclusively on violets. These violets die off part way through the Fritillary's flight season thus the eggs of the last brood are required to over winter in order to take advantage of the following seasons crop of their sole host plant.
As a caterpillar their appearance can be even more diverse than in their final stage as a butterfly. They can be naked, hairy or have varying amounts of bristles or spike like appendages adorning their tubular form. Colours range from dull bland singular colours, that serve to camouflage, to mixtures of bright stripes or blotches that serve to warn. Essentially they are harmless even though they can appear to be quite menacing.....like the Swallowtail caterpillars. Some are distasteful and others poisonous to predators as is the Monarch, Cabbage White and Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. Caterpillars of this type are usually brightly marked to serve as an unmistakable reminder that they should be avoided. Never-the-less, it is this stage that tends to go largely unnoticed as they go quietly about their business.
Throughout the larval stage a caterpillar has to shed it's skin several times in order to accommodate further growth. The time between these sheddings is called an "instar" of which there are usually an average of five and spans two to four weeks. When we use the term a "third instar" caterpillar we are saying that it has shed twice. Immediately upon shedding it's old skin the larva fills with air." (perhaps?? this also may represent the fact that as we lay down our lives for Him and deny ourselves, the wind of the Holy Spirit breathes His life in us even more - John says "He MUST increase, but I must decrease". The more we give ourselves - our self life - over to Him, the more power He has in our lives) "...This allows the new skin to take on that size giving the caterpillar as much room as possible to grow into this new size. After each of these transformations it is possible that the caterpillar can be a different colour or appearance from the time before. Therefore, depending on which instar a caterpillar is in, understanding the instars can play a roll in the identification process.
When the final instar occurs, what emerges is the pupa, which when completed, usually resembles part of the plant they are on........this serves as camouflage. This stage may last a week or so at which time the final stage an adult butterfly is produced, that either carries on the next generation locally or migrates, like the Monarch, to warmer climates before winter. Or they might over winter in this stage and emerge the following season to complete their predetermined task. In any case the transformation, while in the pupa stage, is truly a miracle. What emerges from this case in no way resembles the caterpillar that produced it. Basically what happens is the complete disassembly of the cells that made up the caterpillar and the reassembling of those cells into it's new form....a butterfly. Upon emergence the swollen body immediately begins to pump fluids (the Living Water, water of the Word?) into the tiny shrived up wings. Within a couple of hours the wings are full size, dried, become more rigid and are capable of flight.
A few varieties, such as the Mourning Cloak or Compton Tortoiseshell, choose to hibernate here as adult butterflies and complete their cycle the following season. Others, like the Crossline Skipper, overwinter in their larval stage and some Elfins do so during the pupa stage. Still another way to beat winter is to do so as an egg as with the Bog Copper. Some Hairstreaks do this but they have an obstacle to overcome by choosing this method. As you are now aware eggs are laid on or near host plants so when the eggs hatch the food supply is right there. Since Hairstreak hosts are trees, rather than plants and if the eggs were laid traditionally on the leaves, they would fall to the ground in the fall presenting a food source proximity problem the following spring. This is overcome by depositing the eggs on the buds at the base of the leaf stem so the egg will remain in the tree close to the food source when the time is right.
These timelines can be complex and require a little more determination to follow in their entirety but it is very rewarding to observe the slightly different approaches to all four stages of the journey. As you can see from this page all butterflies follow the same scenario but not necessarily the same timeline when confronted with a seasonal environment. Even within the same species and the same season the timeline can vary between broods. Adaptation is the key to survival for any butterfly
The Nutritive Stage
Out of these eggs hatch larvae or caterpillars. The job of the caterpillar is to eat and eat and eat. As the caterpillar grows it splits its skin and sheds it about 4 or 5 times. Food eaten at this time is stored and used later as an adult. Caterpillars grow 100 times their size during this stage of development. A monarch egg is the size of a pinhead but the larva that hatches from this tiny egg will grow to 2" long in several weeks.
The TRANSITION STAGE
When the caterpillar is full grown and stops eating, it attaches itself to a place to "rest". It forms a chrysalis and goes into a type of hibernation. On the outside it looks like nothing is going on but changes are occurring inside the pupa that we can't see. The internal systems are reorganizing and transforming into adult structures. Pupae can be inside a cocoon, suspended from a tree, or buried under ground. This stage can last from a few weeks to a month. Some species have a pupal stage that lasts for two years.
The Reproductive Stage
Adult butterflies and moths do not molt. The adult lifespan can range from a few weeks to several months depending on the species of butterfly. Adult butterflies that hibernate could actually live much longer. In this stage of life, butterflies can fly. Some butterfly species migrate great distances during the adult stage. They pollinate plants, and reproduce. Many butterfly species seek floral nectar as a source of energy during their adult life and in the process of feeding they help to pollinate many plant species
Within the caterpillar, from its inception, is the butterfly. The caterpillar does not make a butterfly out of itself so much as it finds the butterfly hiding within itself, and responds in extraordinary ways when it does.
In every caterpillar are special cellular structures called "imaginal discs" because they hold the "image" of the entire butterfly on them - the whole butterfly in each cell on every imaginal disc. (ie. our spiritual DNA) A good analogy is to a sticker; imagine lots of identical butterflies "stuck" onto the cells of the caterpillar.
When the caterpillar begins its remarkable process of metamorphosis, wrapped inside its chrysalis, fantastic chemical changes begin that activate the imaginal discs and initiate the disintegration of the caterpillar. The imaginal discs begin to move around, seeking each other, for the butterfly can only happen if the imaginal discs are joined as one. It is perhaps important to repeat, given our mechanical habit of mind, that it is not parts of the butterfly that are linking up, but many wholes.
But the caterpillar resists its disintegration and tries to hold on to its chemical integrity by waging "chemical warfare" against the imaginal discs. It creates a "toxic sludge" (like the spiritual/emotional poisons God is dealing with us in in particular during our metamorphosis process!) that can kill the imaginal discs of the butterfly if they are caught swimming solo in this deadly chemical stew. But the toxic sludge is not effective against the imaginal discs that are linked together; something in the linking gives them immunity.
This war costs the caterpillar its own life, for the toxic sludge is also poison to its cellular structure. And how could it not be, since its cellular structure is the butterfly within it and the caterpillar both? But the battle is an intense one, as solo imaginal discs and caterpillar are consumed by toxic sludge, while within the same chemical poison other imaginal discs risk death to link with each other to survive their own metamorphosis.
Eventually, the toxic sludge that the caterpillar generated to destroy the butterfly it in essence always has been, destroys itself. The linked imaginal discs begin to consume the toxic sludge, which is no longer fatal now that they have reached a critical linked mass, and the chemistry makes its shift in favor of the butterfly.
The butterfly then emerges, fully formed, beautiful, and does what the caterpillar, perhaps, was always dreaming it could do, fly. And in becoming a butterfly, it does.
Insects and butterflies change in form in their development from egg to adult. The different instars are not alike, this process is called metamorphosis
In a nutshell we can say that a Butterfly passes through
four stages in its life cycle. Usually it lays eggs on a leaf. When the eggs
hatch a small larva emerges and crawls out. This larva of a butterfly is called
a caterpillar which starts eating the leaf and grows This is the active stage.
During its life it moults a few times. Each time it becomes bigger. Soon it
changes into a pupa. This pupa may be hanging on the plant in a small loop
of silk. And after a few weeks the pupa turns into a beautiful adult butterfly.
Below is given the complete metamorphosis stage in which the wings develop internally during the larval stage. The larval stage looks very different from the adult stage. There is a pupal stage which usually is inactive between the last larval stage and the adult stage.
Changes in the insect during metamorphosis are miraculous. The tissues and organs or the larva are broken down and reassembled. The result is to produce a winged, adult insect, completely different from the wingless eating machine of its youth.
The insect stage that harbors these changes is the pupa, from the Latin word for doll. Apparently, ancient people saw in that insect form a likeness to the inanimate toy for a child. The same Latin root is used to form the word "puppet.'
Insects protect their pupae in a variety of ways. Some, like the common housefly, are thrifty, using their last larval skin to form a protective cover for the pupae. Other insects, like that pest of lawns"the white grub"industriously form a nice chamber in the soil at pupation time. Still others follow the Boy Scouts' lead and make a tent-like structure by tying the edges of leaves together.
Some insects spare no expense or trouble to make their cocoons. Probably the most famous of this group is the silkworm, which spins a cocoon of silk for pupation. Centuries ago, it was discovered that the silken thread used by silkworm larvae to construct pupation chambers could be unwound and used for human purposes. Since that time, uncounted silkworms have sun up cocoons with the biological intent of becoming an adult. However, humans have interceded to claim the silk for their own uses.
And then there are those insects that choose the no-frills method. Most butterflies"unlike their close relatives the moths"have pupae that are naked. As larvae, these streakers among the insect pupae normally attach their tail end to a leaf or twig before pupating. Then while the butterfly pupae, called a chrysalis, hangs upside down, Mother Nature gives the creature a makeover.
Of course this is absolutely necessary. How else would an ugly caterpillar turn into a beautiful butterfly
The actual process of forming the chrysalis takes several hours from the time the caterpillar begins to hang in the J formation. It will remain in this chrysalis for roughly two weeks, with the exact length of time depending on the air temperature.
This second set of photos shows a monarch emerging from its chrysalis. During this time, the butterfly is very vulnerable. Notice how tiny its wings are when it first emerges. The plump abdomen is full of fluid which is quickly pumped into the veins of the tiny wings. The butterfly must hang vertically and allow its wings to expand fully before it is able to fly.
Like other insects, the butterflies also have a skeleton that covers the outer surface of their bodies. This outer or exoskeleton is composed of hard plates connected by soft tissue, looking like some sort of armor. The hard material is called "chitin." The formation of this layer comes about through a very interesting process. As is commonly known, caterpillars pass through a rather complex process called metamorphosis. The caterpillar first becomes a pupa and then turns into a butterfly. Throughout this process of metamorphosis, slight changes occur in the wings, antennae, legs and other body parts. Also, the cells in different key areas such as the flight muscles and wings re-organize themselves through every phase of metamorphosis. Furthermore, along with these changes, almost all systems in the body -the digestive system, excretory system, respiratory system etc.- go through a process of immense change.
The chrysalis (generically
referred to as a pupa), is not a "resting" stage as many people
think. Quite to the contrary, a lot is happening to the pupa! The body of
the caterpillar is transforming into an adult butterfly! Wings are fully formed
(the beginnings of the wings were actually forming underneath the caterpillar's
skin before its last molt) in the chrysalis. Antennae are formed and the chewing
mouthparts of the caterpillar are transformed into the sucking mouthparts
of the butterfly.
After approximately 10 to 14 days as a chrysalis, the butterfly
is ready to emerge. When the butterfly emerges
from its chrysalis, its wings are small and wet, and the butterfly cannot
yet fly. The butterfly must pump fluids from its abdomen through the veins
in its wings, which causes the wings to expand to their full size. Next, the
wings must dry and the butterfly must exercise flight muscles before it can
Papilio polytes ...adult
The main job of an adult butterfly's life is to reproduce. After a female butterfly mates, she searches for the proper host plant to lay her eggs, and the cycle begins again.
Butterflies and moths go through the same stages in their metamorphosis with one difference. Many moths form a cocoon instead of a chrysalis. Moths form cocoons by first spinning a silken "house" around them. Once the cocoon is finished, the moth caterpillar molts for the last time, and forms a pupa inside the cocoon.
Butterflies DO NOT form cocoons, no matter what The Very
Hungry Caterpillar says!
Butterflies are one of the most beautiful creatures in all creation. They are referred to as"Dancing Flowers" in some cultures.
1. A protected stage of development."
The Greatest Reformation
"In preparation for these great events, the church is about to go through a metamorphosis. She is going to change from a worm into a butterfly. A caterpillar is confined to the earth, and its path must conform to the contour of the earth. Likewise, for nearly two thousand years the church has often conformed more to the ways of the world than to the ways of the Spirit. Soon the church will go through a change so dramatic that it will seem to emerge as an entirely different creature. It will be like another birth. This time we will have wings to soar high above the ways of the world.
Possibly the greatest struggle that a butterfly will ever experience is freeing itself from the cocoon where the great transformation has taken place. However, if it were not for the strengthening of the butterfly that takes place during this struggle, it would never be able to flap its great wings and fly. Not only does the church have a transformation to undergo, but it must then prevail through the struggle of freeing itself from the place of the transformation.
The church has been bound by forces that have greatly inhibited her from becoming all that she was created to be. Evil religious spirits have become substitutes for the Holy Spirit. Control spirits have dominated and crushed creativity. The basic nature of God and those who have His Spirit is creativity. Political spirits have caused the church to cower under the fear of man so tightly binding the church, that both the devil and the world are convinced that she will never be anything but a worm. However, even under this extreme pressure, a transformation is taking place on the inside of this worm. Even though she is still imprisoned, wings are growing! There is about to be a jailbreak!
The church is about to bust out of the prison that the devil and the world have tried to keep her in. The church is about to come forth both beautiful and strong. And she will be able to fly! The sky will be her home, and the wind of the Spirit will be her guide.
When this new church emerges, she will be so different from what is now perceived to be the church, that the whole world will not even recognize that there was ever a connection between the two. As the new creation church begins to soar, the old forms will become filled with every evil thing. The corruption of the old will be total, and it will no longer be possible for the righteous to stay in the old."
"The Greek word that is translated "transformed" in this text is "metamorphoo" from which we derive our English word "metamorphosis." This is the process that a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. Since a caterpillar is a "worm" it is bound to the earth. Because of this change it is then given beautiful wings that enables it to soar above the earth. This is, likewise, what happens in the normal development of every Christian. We go from being earthly-minded - conformed to the ways of the world - to being able to soar in the heavenly realm above the earth. Our ultimate calling is to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places, as we read in Ephesians 2:1-8:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, In order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
It is said that the greatest struggle for a butterfly is freeing itself from the cocoon where the transformation took place. However, if it were not for this great struggle, it would not be strong enough to flap those huge wings. This, too, is a message for us. The Lord does not want our struggles to be easy. If they were too easy, we would not become strong enough to walk in what He has called us to. There is a principle revealed throughout Scripture and history - the more difficult your trials, the more significant your calling. Those who come into their purpose easily and quickly usually do not have a very significant calling. The bigger the wings you are called to have, the bigger the struggle must be for you to be strong enough to use them"