By Lori Belihar Boyd
I read something interesting the other day. A study conducted by researchers at Georgetown University found that butterflies remember aspects of their lives as caterpillars. This may sound completely unremarkable at first, but consider what takes place in the chrysalis. The caterpillar experiences a metamorphosis: a complete change in form, structure, or function as a result of development. I’ve heard it compared to recycling where something entirely new is created from something else. A large portion of the caterpillar’s body is broken down to the stem cell level and the stem cells then put themselves back together into a different shape, referred to as holometabolism. It is amazing that, through that process, the butterfly emerges and can even recall some of its previous life as a larva.
This should sound very familiar to the Christian! We can relate to the butterfly because of the complete life change that is experienced through baptism. Before being immersed into Christ (Galatians 3:27), we were wingless and…well, wormlike. Sin bound us to the world, left us belly crawling, growing larger and larger as we continually munched on the cares of the world. Then, God saved us! Through the free gift of grace, God provided an opportunity for transformation. All we have to do is listen to His directions that will lead us to a safe place, believe in His promise for our future, shed our old skins, declare Jesus Christ as His Son, and then enter into the watery chrysalis of baptism to become new creatures with new lives.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, emp. added).
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4, emp. added).
Now, here is where the Christian and the butterfly travel a different pathway. In as much as butterflies exhibit behaviors that are reminiscent of their former lives as larvae, the Christian must “not remember the former things nor consider the things of old” (Isaiah 43:18). Paul, in his life, recognized that he had not yet reached the ultimate prize of eternal glory, then committed himself to forgetting the past and reaching forward to the future as he pressed toward that goal (Philippians 3:13-14).
For the Christian, it’s not remembering how bad life was as a caterpillar; it’s the daily reminder that we are butterflies because of Jesus and the sacrifice that He made for us on the cross. Every day we “transform” and remind ourselves that we are not of this world, we’ve left behind our lives as caterpillars, and we renew our minds. These are not my words, but Paul’s, as he wrote to the Romans about giving their lives over completely to God (Romans 12:2).
As butterflies, there should be an obvious difference in the way we look and behave from caterpillars. If we continue to read chapter 12 in Paul’s letter to the Romans, we find many suggestions he gave as to how Christians should conduct themselves, actions that would help distinguish between that ”ewwww” stage of life as a larva to the “ahhhhhh” stage of life as a majestic butterfly!
When I see a butterfly, I feel humbled by its beauty and the power that God has to make such an awesome change. I wonder if the butterfly remembers what it felt like to crawl as it gracefully takes flight? I am thankful that because I left my old life behind and accepted God’s grace through obedience in baptism, I don’t have to remember. I pray that I never take for granted the opportunity God has given me to fly above this world and that without Him I wouldn’t have the wings to try.
In Memory of Carol
Carol Corlew Boyd was called home to be with our Heavenly Father on May 14, 2013. Carol had already conquered death when she made the decision to become a Christian many years ago and put on Christ in baptism. She was lovely, and as I wrote about butterflies I couldn’t help but be reminded of her. She was beautiful, happy, always busy doing good, and quietly touched the lives of so many. Carol truly possessed the marks of a true Christian that Paul described in Romans 12 and flew above this world with strong wings. She was and will continue to be an inspiration to all who were blessed to know her.
The Butterfly Remembers
By Lori Belihar Boyd