After a long walk at our local Botanical Gardens, I usually end up at the Butterfly House. Two reasons …it’s beautiful and the lobby is nice and cool, which makes me a happier person after a long, hot walk.
Imagine my surprise on this particular day to notice a beautiful butterfly not being his usual flitting around self. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t moving at all …completely still. I began to think the poor little thing’s life had expired and felt a little sad for him.
Compelled by guilt or compassion?, I told the garden’s caretaker about him. Her response surprised me. She talked about how it was just his time to go and then told me something I never knew about butterflies …many only live about 2 weeks!
I was not only shocked, I felt frustrated as well.
A conversation went on inside my head — “You mean they work so hard to go through all that metamorphosis and struggle to get out of that cocoon …only to live 2 weeks!!?? The most beautiful part of their life is so short after so much hard work to get here? That hardly seems fair! ”
All along I guess I had assumed these butterflies live here during the warm season and escape our climate to fly south for the winter like the hummingbirds! (Turns out, I’m not that smart! 🙂 )
Curiosity took over. I wanted to know all about them and what their short life might have to teach me.
Based on my research, there are 4 stages in the life of a butterfly …lasting anywhere “from one month to a whole year” ( http://www.thebutterflysite.com/life-cycle.shtml ) with the most impressive part — each stage has a very intentional purpose.
In stage one, “adult female butterflies lay their eggs on plants”(earthsbirthday.org) — but not just any plant. It’s laid on a plant that the soon-to-be-emerging caterpillar loves to eat.
Stage 2 brings the “hungry caterpillar” into the world right on the doorstep of his favorite restaurant. Ironically, his main job in life is to eat, eat and eat some more. He eats so much that he gets fatter and fatter and can’t even fit into his skin anymore. There will be 4 size changes and like any fashionable caterpillar …a new outfit with each one, with new skin underneath.
Tired from all that eating and skin shedding, the caterpillar once again has the equipment necessary within his own skin for the next task …spinning a silk pad to begin the formation of his secluded cocoon season …stage 3. But don’t be fooled, this is not a dormant time. Much is happening! The whole inside of the caterpillar is turning liquid and re-forming and rearranging…some might say a meltdown but a complete transformation is happening!
More splitting and struggling is needed as the transformed-caterpillar-into-butterfly has to work his way out of this secluded, hidden time of growth. A new birth is beginning.
And now to the beautiful butterfly part, right!? Stage 4 begins …
This stage comes with instructions as well and while the newly emerged butterfly has a few hours to dry off his wings, he has time to think about his purpose in life. For the next 2 weeks (or more depending on the species) : “…its main goal is to reproduce and lay eggs so the cycle can begin again!” ( http://earthsbirthday.org/butterflies/butterfly-lifecycle )
This took “two week’s notice” to a whole new level! Can you imagine …they struggle long and hard to get out of that cocoon onto that branch or leaf only to be welcomed with, “You have 2 weeks. Make it count! Oh, and by the way, that 2 week part only applies if a predator doesn’t snatch you up first.”
It’s hard to fly by this without applying it to life …my life …your life.
The Holy Spirit fills James to let these words flow from the pages of God’s Word …
“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14 NLT)
What if we got here with clear instructions for each stage or season of our lives? What if there was a specific purpose and goal to fulfill? What if we saw these seasons and stages as intentional growth and development …as well as an opportunity to reproduce the good work accomplished in us?
And then the question is, ” How do we perceive these stages and seasons?”
Season 1 might be the time the seed was planted on the leaves of the Word of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit your eyes opened through faith …you trusted in Jesus as your Savior and received new life. This is the fun part. The beginning. Everything looks new and fresh and we’re hungry for God’s word and His presence to direct our lives.
But seasons 2 and 3 are filled with changes. Our hunger led to feeding on God’s word and His truth and enjoying His presence–so much so that we’re fat and happy! But then changes come …transforming us more and more into the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. These can be times of hard work and we feel split wide open …not comfortable in our new skin. We may feel alone — secluded — in this part of the journey while the necessary processing of transforming growth is remaking us. We may wonder if we’re actually doing anything productive at all since the view seems hidden in the dark as to the real beauty being formed within us.
And all the while we labor …with the anticipation of a new day coming.
Ahhh, but then comes the beautiful day of emerging as the work has been accomplished–our hearts full …we’re fully equipped to fly and bring joy and life to others through our Maker-Creator…Season 4.
We’re given new instructions, “Love God …love others” but “watch out” for that predator who wants to snatch you bald-headed! He has no power over you nor can he “snatch you“; but he’ll try to singe your wings and keep you wounded to get you off your Divinely Designed flight path.
But here’s where the analogy takes a different turn …
In the life cycle of a follower of Jesus Christ, it’s as if the stages and seasons are listed but with this little Manufacturer’s note added at the bottom:
“After Seasons 1-4 are completed, RINSE …and REPEAT Seasons 2-4 as many times as needed for full maturity until you look more and more like Jesus and see Him face to face.”
And here’s what I came away with …
Embrace your season. Learn all you can from it. Let God do the necessary work in each season. Trust that the Holy Spirit has already equipped you with everything you need to accomplish the task and always be about the Father’s business.
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
So, my friend, do any of these seasons sound familiar?
Thank you Huntsville Botanical Gardens! Your space is life-giving!
Feature photo taken in Madison, Alabama (Thanks Todds!) All others were taken at the Botanical Gardens.