Springtime in preschool is one of my favorite times of year. Each year we order caterpillars, along with a pasty, semi-gelatinous mixture of vegetation upon which the caterpillars feed. The caterpillars arrive not much larger in size than a couple hyphens on a page –. As they consume the veggie mash and turn it into, well, you know… they grow exponentially to about the size of a paper clip. Then the fun really begins…
The caterpillars make their way to the top of their container and hang upside down, curling up their bottom end. Or is it the top? Not sure. Then while no one is watching (of course) the transformation begins. The fuzzy, black outer coat of the caterpillar gives way to a chrysalis. The chrysalis of our butterflies, Painted Ladies, is a grayish brown color with rows of little gold bumps running its length. While the chrysalis may seem to be in a dormant state, sometimes the wiggle and vibrate as if to say “I’m still in here.” “I’m still alive.” I will confess that the first time one of them wriggled in my hand I was a little freaked out.
Then the wait is on. Once the chrysalises form, we wait. We wait and we watch. The children will check the butterfly cages daily, even hourly to see if any butterflies have come out. And then, again, usually when no one is watching, one emerges. While the escape from the empty shell happens quickly, there is often a struggle. A red substance called meconium drips from the butterfly’s body as it breaks from its former self. Finally, it begins to unfold its fragile wings and flap them slowly as they dry.
With each new butterfly discovery our classrooms erupt with shouts of joy and excitement much like those heard at the birth of a child. Once all the butterflies are out and the children have gotten to watch them for a couple days, we release them into our garden to repeat the cycle in the wild.
It’s no wonder that the wonder of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to a butterfly is a favorite activity for all of us at the preschool. We get to see God’s handiwork, a glimpse into the mind of creation. What’s more are the reminders of our own transformation through the resurrection of Jesus.
We are the caterpillars. We are born. We grow. We gorge ourselves on our own desires. Through Jesus we are changed. The gluttonous body of self-fulfillment we cultivate shrivels up and dies. It is cast off. Our transformation from sinner to saint is not instant. It takes time. We must watch and wait and struggle. Finally and only by the blood of Jesus can we be fully transformed into new life—a new creation. Our old self is cast off like the shriveled up caterpillar body. The sacrifice of Jesus allows us to be the beautiful creation God intended, free from guilt, free from shame, free from condemnation, free to fly.
So the next time you see a butterfly flutter by, think about the transformation that took place a few weeks before. Remember the saving grace that transforms us. And fly.