Most butterflies and moths "spin" or "weave" a cocoon into which they kind of "hibernate" - or so it may seem on the surface. The cocoon is an illustration of "going in one way, coming out another" - what once was may have the same "roots", but it is quite different from the way it once was. Whether it is the cocoon or chrysalis "process" we consider, a living thing goes inside this object, then a transforming process begins: 1) A larva transforms into the pupa; 2) the pupa begins to transform into the imago; and 3) the imago begins to emerge as a "new life form". What once was is no longer what emerges - there is a new life form, unrecognizable as its former "form" any longer - the image is affected within that cocoon.
Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. (Romans 12:2 VOICE)
The caterpillar crawls around and around, making its way through life until one day it recognizes it is time for a season of change. It was happy as a caterpillar, finding enjoyment in hiding beneath leaves in the trees, munching away on veggies in the garden, and pretty much being able to hide away in undiscovered places until one day it senses this need to prepare for change. Much in the same way, we go through life just enjoying ourselves (or maybe not so much enjoying ourselves as much as being oblivious to the beautiful potential within). We "hide out" in a whole lot of different ways, just going about "life", without really desiring or knowing what beauty is possible or prepared for us. Almost without warning, there is a season of what we will call darkness which occurs - the cocoon, if you will, that takes us out of this time of just caring for our own needs and wishes into a time of absolute darkness.
In those times of "cocoon" stillness and absence of light, is there really nothing occurring? Absolutely not! In fact, as we know from the study of the butterfly and moth, within that dark place which appears to be the absolute absence of life or movement, there is transformation underway. It should give us some encouragement to consider the absence of "movement" and the places of "darkness" are not places devoid of God's transforming power in our lives, but rather are the places where he does the greatest work! If you didn't catch it when I talked about the three stages of growth, let me break it down:
- The caterpillar crawls along, not making great progress, and always having to move from one place to another under its own power. It finds daily provision in places of hiding. The day comes when things are about to change. Inside the cocoon, hidden away from prying eyes, the caterpillar begins to change into what we call the larva - a very immature, wingless form whose sole purpose is to just eat and eat. In this stage of growth (or transformation), the process begins by feeding. It shouldn't catch us by surprise that God would prepare for our greatest season of growth by taking us into a place where he also provides for our growth - making all we need available to us, but no more. Inside that cocoon, the caterpillar has just enough for its imminent transformation. At this stage, the "becoming object" is not capable of independent life, nor is it possible for it to fly - it is just all about growing. I also would like us to consider the odd places a caterpillar chooses to begin this process of transition. They "attach" the cocoon to some of the oddest places, but their real transformation doesn't happen until the "attach" to what will become their place of rest and provision for the next stage of their life-growth.
- The larva form of the "new life" which is soon to emerge makes yet another transition into the pupa. At this stage, the evidence of growth is at what appears to be a "stall". The movement within the cocoon stops and there is stillness. From the outside there is no evidence of life within - it looks like death has occurred! In the pupa stage, the whole action which is occurring is done in what appears to be the absence of movement. It is considered to be the "non-feeding" stage of growth when the larva just simply gets very still and waits for the growth process to become final. I know I resist this stillness part of growth because I am the kind of person whose mind goes a million miles an hour and I just don't "shut down" that easily. If I don't still myself, I can be assured God will take me into seasons where he will do it for me! Why? He wants me to do more than "eat" - he wants me to change as a result of my having "eaten"!
- The imago stage ensues. Inside the cocoon, what went inside does not emerge the same - there is a transformation into a new image! The Latin root of imago is image! Within these seasons of perceived darkness and a lack of movement, provision has been made for the transformation of our image from one of having little beauty to that of a totally new life form! Inside that dark place, provision has occurred. The absolute stillness begins to be shattered by the emerging, yet slightly immature growth just inside that dark place. As the life emerges, it no longer resembles what went inside. There is something beautiful emerging, transformed by the dark and still place. It is just a matter of time when the thing hidden in the dark and confined space makes a discovery of its own - wings! As the once-caterpillar emerges with its new image, the wings begin to unfold, taking on the form which will allow them to fly. If we have ever resisted the dark place because it was too confining or too long of a wait to see what would become of us within the confines of that "cocoon", the image of the graceful flight of that butterfly as it catches the wind and begins to fly far above all it had ever experienced before in its "previous life" as a caterpillar should give us hope! A new image emerges from deep within those dark and still places of growth - the image of Christ - with wings which will set us aloft! Just sayin!