2 Corinthians 5:16-17 From now on, therefore, we regard no one anyone according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Katie’s eyes filled with delight as she spied a butterfly flitting in the distance. Jumping out of the swing, she ran to get the insect cage, and off we went chasing the butterfly. We walked back and forth along a tall hedge of bushes attempting to find the butterfly sitting still long enough to gently place our hands around her and transport her to the cage. She landed on some leaves directly in front of us and quickly danced out of reach.
Looking down toward the leaves of the hedge, I saw what this butterfly used to be, a spiny caterpillar, moving slowly along a leaf, chewing holes in the foliage. Her only mission seemed to be consumption, and the result of that consumption, the destruction of God’s beauty, the leaf on which she crawled.
There were 5 or 6 of these caterpillars crawling and eating nearby, so we turned our efforts toward catching them instead of the elusive butterfly. We caught several of them and put them in the cage with a few of the leaves on which they had been living. We then placed them inside on the kitchen counter hoping that they would perhaps form their chrysalis.
After several days of eating and consuming leaves, one by one, they attached themselves to the top of the cage, shed their skin one last time, and formed their chrysalis as if it was just a regular part of their day.
How could this seemingly unintelligent worm who has spent the entirety of her life crawling and eating all of a sudden know that its time to form her chrysalis? How does she know to suspend herself upside down? I wonder if she knows that the shedding of her flesh that one last time will bring about the new skin underneath which forms the chrysalis. Does she know what is happening to her, what she is to become? Does she know the beauty that will come forth?
Once a tiny egg on a leaf, the caterpillar was born into this world. Now, inside another womb, she waits to be born again. She emerges, rainbows of color spilling out as she pushes her wings through the opening in the chrysalis. Beauty pouring forth from the caterpillar’s tomb, from the butterfly’s womb.
I see the velvety colors, the freshly formed wings, the perfect formation of spots and markings that spill out of the butterfly’s womb. Color bursting forth. A new creation, a display of God’s splendor, a dancing painting in the form of a fly. Wings smooth as butter, reflecting the light of the sun. Dancing, twirling, flitting, free.
Does she know she is an entirely new creature? Does she know how beautiful she has become? Somehow, she knows she is meant to fly. She makes her way to the edge of the cage door and pumps her wings, preparing them for her first flight, her ascent into the heavens.
Flitting, dancing, she takes off, and enters her new world. A world with a new perspective. From the heavens looking down. The weight of her flesh gone, consumption and destruction left for better days. She moves on to live a life of purpose, spending her life pollinating and causing things to grow. Bearing fruit instead of boring holes. Bringing glory instead of taking it. Bringing forth blooms for God’s children, for me.
The fleshy, weighty caterpillar gone. I no longer see her as I gaze upon the fly. Only the evidence of her last molt, a shroud like Jesus’, left near her tomb. She has a new name, the butterfly. I do not define her by who she used to be. She is now a flier, a flitter of the heavens, a reflection of God’s glory. A resurrected being. A new creation.
Even her mouth is gone, transformed into a spout used for drinking. A straw for sucking nectar, the sweet substance that the pagans once called the “drink of the Gods”. A whole new diet. Only drinking nectar as sweet as honey. She flits from flower to flower, sucking nectar and tasting with her feet. Tasting to find the best place to reproduce, and as she tastes, she carries pollen, causing blooms to come forth.
Like the caterpillar, Christ hung and was transformed into glory. No longer regarded as flesh. His flesh gone, vanished from the tomb, and then resurrected back to life. Like the butterfly, He ascended into the heavens, but left us his promised spirit. Christ’s tomb. God’s womb. Life bursting forth out of the death and resurrection of a man. Your life. My life.
I hung on his cross and allowed him to crucify the woman I used to be. My own wings emerged from God’s womb, spilling out color and life. Out of my mother’s womb one summer in late July and out of God’s womb in a more wintry season of life. A new creation. A walking painting in the form of a girl. God’s masterpiece created to do good works. No longer regarded as flesh. Born again, leaving a life of consuming, of devouring, of self-focus. But do I live as though that were true?
You are spirit, I hear God say. You are no longer flesh. Caterpillar days are gone. Leave behind those days where you bore holes in hearts, trying to fill the hunger inside, the emptiness, the holes in your own heart that only I could make whole. Do not meditate on what you are not, taking back on the habits of a creature I have crucified. Drink my living water, my sweet nectar that feeds your soul and reminds you of who you are. You are a pollinator, a bringer of life. A lighter freer creature, meant for flying, not crawling, meant for bringing blooms not boring holes. I have seated you in the heavenlies and given you a new home. I have given you wings for flying, for reflecting the light of the Son. I have given you feet that taste where I am working. Feet that bring good news. I have seated you in the heavenlies and given you a new home.
Father, why have I so often lived my days as if I am still the worm? Why do I focus on the caterpillar instead of the beauty of the fly? Give me a new perspective, your perspective, from the heavens looking down. Open my eyes to see your beauty and your spirit in myself and others even when it is buried deep within the flesh. Use these wings and feet to bring good news, to bring forth joy and color and life.
How long have I pumped these wings to prepare for the ascent? I sit on the edge of the cage as you strengthen my wings. Strength and courage welling up from you, only you, Father. It is unfamiliar, this new world, too free almost. The cage beckons, calling me back to safety, to what I know. But the whisper of my Father is clearer, louder than the lies coming from the cage. Fly, I hear him say. The wings I have given you will carry you.
And as he peels my feet from the edge of the cage, I feel him whispering over and over, You are spirit. You are spirit. You are spirit. No longer regard yourself according to the flesh. The old has gone. The new has come…
In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen