by Rev. Amanda Moseng, Pastor of Discipleship
Transformation is rarely an easy process. By definition, it is a change of some sort. This change can be a change in form, appearance, or structure- something happening outwardly. The change can also be a change in nature, condition, or character- something happening inwardly. The timing of a transformation typically happens in one of two ways: a relatively quick process with instant results or a gradual process with changes that occur over time, perhaps not wholly evident until the process ends.
When I think of transformation, one thing that comes to mind is home renovation shows. My dad loved watching HGTV. Whenever my husband and I would travel home for the holidays, it was a guarantee that I would get my year’s supply of Fixer Upper and Love It or List It while staying with my parents. I do not typically gravitate to home renovation shows on my own accord. Still, I think the way they captivate audiences’ collective attention points to a greater truth: we see the potential for what things could be. We trust in the possibility of transformation. We hold out hope for change. And admit it. Seeing that dingy old kitchen transformed into a beautiful, bright space replete with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances is exciting. However, transformation is not limited to home renovation projects. In my opinion, one of the fascinating examples of transformation is the butterfly life cycle.
The process of transformation in the butterfly life cycle is called metamorphosis. Butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis, meaning that the butterfly looks different at each stage. The first stage is the egg, while the second stage is the larva or caterpillar. The caterpillar grows rapidly and eats a lot of food that it stores for later (a nod to Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar here). The third stage is the pupa or chrysalis. Though it may appear on the outside that nothing is happening, this is a time of great transformation.
According to the Wisconsin Pollinators, "The pupa, though sedentary, is a stage of great internal turmoil and transformation. Nearly all the larval tissues and organs (eyes, mouth parts, legs, glands, muscles) will be digested and reorganized into the adult butterfly's body. The pupa stage of the butterfly's life cycle is a time for a complete change." 1 In the final stage, the caterpillar emerges from the pupa as a winged butterfly, a complete transformation!
While the transformation of a butterfly is physical, I think we can draw parallels from the process of metamorphosis to our own lives. I see the parallel most clearly when it comes to the pupa/chrysalis stage (although who am I to not relate to the larval/caterpillar stage and ignore the joy of eating lots of good food?). Sometimes in life, it seems like nothing might be changing on the outside.
The parallel extends to our spiritual life in two ways. First, we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:2 reads, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." The Greek word for "transformed" here is metamorfoō (μεταμορφόω), the origin of the word "metamorphosis." God is asking that we be completely transformed through the renewal of our minds, meaning that we develop the mind of Christ in us and focus our attention on God. This change is evidenced by our words, actions, and the fruit of the Spirit manifesting in our lives. How can we further use the physical metamorphosis of the butterfly to draw spiritual examples of the metamorfoō that God desires for us? Second, we trust God is at work even when we do not see it. Just like the pupa stage, when it appears that nothing is happening and everything is being broken down and transformed, God is moving and making a way. We hold onto the hope that God is making all things new.
Like the truth revealed in home renovation shows, we believe in the possibility of change. We see the potential for what could be because we know what Christ has already done on our behalf. We trust that God can bring transformation to our hearts, minds, and lives. This metamorphosis is not for our benefit alone, though, nor does it end with our inner transformation. The transformation we experience on the inside compels us to seek transformation in the world around us. We become agents of change, extending God's gracious welcome, love, hope, and reconciliation. We make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, one faithful step at a time.