There is nothing in nature that compares to the transformation of a butterfly. It is magical to think of that which was once confined to crawling on branches and ground now soaring through the air on delicate wings.
All it takes is a little time in the chrysalis.
I imagined the chrysalis to be a period of waiting. Knowing the caterpillar spends the entire beginning of its life struggling to eat enough, then the next part of its life furiously working to create space for transformation, I thought, perhaps, the chrysalis provided some respite. As if the butterfly wings poked their way through the caterpillar's skin while it was sleeping, making themselves ready to be stretched and exposed to the breeze once the caterillar awoke.
That's not really true. I don't think I ever believed it was quite that easy. But in the mystery of not seeing and not knowing, I did make an assumption. I figured the process was a lot of work, but not all that much pain.
Christians like to talk about transformation a lot. We are made into the image of Christ! We are changed! We are new creations!
We tend to make a few mistakes in the ways we talk about this change.
The first is to speak as if there is only one metamorphasis: the transformation when we make a decision to believe in Christ and our lives are forever altered.
Though this is true, that moment is one of many. Christ invites us not only into a transformed life, but a life of transformation.
The second is to talk about the end product of metamorphasis without acknowledging the process.
The caterpillar does not one day eat a magic leaf and suddenly become a butterfly. Transformation takes time in the chrysalis.
If you were to crack open a chrysalis before a butterfly was ready to emerge, there is a good chance goop would ooze out from within.
In order to be transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillar has to digest itself.
Let that sink in.
The only thing that lasts through that process are a few groups of cells called imaginal discs. The caterpillar was born with these discs, which carry the pattern for future eyes, wings, and legs within them. Imaginal discs then feed on the goop that once was the caterpillar in order to grow into butterfly parts they were designed to become.
In the chrysalis, there is not just waiting. There is death.
Last spring, I marked the back of my neck with a tatoo of flying butterflies. I've always loved their symbolism, and I wanted to remember all the ways I'm a different person now than I once was.
The tattoo came near the end of a difficult season. I think in some ways, I was hoping it would help me fly away and be done with the struggle.
But now, I am back in the chrysalis. I am in a space where I can see new ways I have to die in order for more butterfly wings to grow.
It hurts. But it is the food for what I was designed to become.
In Greek, the word for soul is the word for butterfly.
Our souls are transformed in the chrysalis.