The Caterpiller into the Butterfly

Photo by Chris F on

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, [God] calls a butterfly.” ~ Richard Bach. 

I was in a nail salon last week [where there was quite a profusion of Christian-themed messages, by the way], and this quote was displayed in a little frame in the window.

I actually hadn’t heard it before, and in the subsequent days, it has really stayed with me. [The original quote has “the master” for God, but I hate that.] Now, I know it is a little schmaltzy, and maybe a little trite, too, but that doesn’t mean the message isn’t true, or even important to hear.

I think these words resonated so much with me because of the current moment we are in right now in the Lutheran Church [and other denominations as well] with many people feeling, frankly, like this is the “end of the world” for the Church as it has existed for generations in the United States. For many people, death feels like it is all around us—and all we are experiencing, all we have to look forward to, is loss, endings, and doom.

[Editorial Comment: Even while understanding and appreciating this view, and the experience of people who would describe the current state of the Church this way, I do want to acknowledge the myopic perspective this suggests: it ignores the many, many transformations of the church in this country since its founding; and it also ignores all that is growing and developing in the global church, in different countries all around the world.]

Yet, at the same time, we are, of course, in the Easter season, the season where we celebrate the reliability of the sure promise of the resurrection, and the triumph of life over death—and the knowledge that, for each of us and for all of us, death is not the end, it will never be the end. Of course, this does not mean that death is abolished—we will still all die, after all—it just means that death does not, will not have the last word; life will always follow death.

So, it seems important to recognize that, like the caterpillar crawling into her chrysalis, in our limited view, our limited perspective, we can’t fully see what is ahead, and we certainly can’t see the whole picture.

I don’t know about you, but I can call to mind many times when I thought I was at the end of the road, that the things that mattered to me were over, that I was facing a death, a loss, the finality of an ending with only emptiness behind it. But then, contrary to all my expectations, things turned out differently than I had imagined: there was a way where there seemed to be no way. When I revisit those times, months or years later, I realize that what I thought was an end wasn’t an end at all, but the pause before the beginning of something new: a transition, a shift in perspective, a fresh start, a new iteration of life. The development of wings, the possibility of flight.

And, in this experience, I am reminded that first and foremost, God is a God of love, a God of life, a God of new beginnings and fresh starts. To all of us, in our worst moments, God gives courage to the fearful, encouragement to the doubting, comfort to the faint of heart–and a future to the despairing.

When the world seems like it is coming to an end, our God is at work, making something out of nothing, bringing good out of evil.

Our God transforms: the caterpillar into the butterfly, and you and me into whatever comes next, whatever that looks like, just beyond the horizon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s