Caterpillars have invaded my passion flower vine. I adore this plant. The flowers are exotic and fragrant, tropical, and lovely. Or they were all those things. Until they came under attack by dozens of caterpillars. Overnight, the carterpillars chewed off leaves, destroyed buds, ate away the exotic flowers! I caught one determinedly munching petal after petal. Seeing him destroying my plant, I knew my next step, all caterpillars must go!

But just before I exercised the “nuclear option,” I did a little research and discovered that they were Gulf Fritillary caterpillars. And that they can only breed on passion flower vines. Their habitat is declining, and they are threatened. I put away the pest killers and resigned myself to letting the spikey orange and black caterpillars do their worst. Once I had resolved to let them eat their fill, I tried to enjoy them. But they didn’t do much beyond crawling and eating. Lots of eating.

Then one day, they stopped. Froze. They were going to cocoon! As I watched the ones that had reached that point, I had a startling realization: I had been romanticizing the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Seeing it unfold before me, I realized there was nothing soft-focus about metamorphosis.

I couldn’t help but be impressed by the courage and terror transformation actually involves. The caterpillar must affix itself to a spot and hang there, exposed and unmoving, like a fat, delicious snack. Birds, lizards and other predators along with the harsh sun, the wind, the rain all come against the caterpillars in this vulnerable state. But the Gulf Fritillary cannot move if it is to be changed.

If it holds still enough, and survives, the next step is that its head falls off! Its head, the only way it has seen the world, fed itself, processed its life. It loses eyes, brain, mouth. After this, the caterpillar’s body starts to secrete a substance that solidifies around it. Its spikes and some of the feet fall off next. The caterpillar must hold still. Once the cocoon is formed, the caterpillar completely dissolves inside it. From the goo, it’s reassembled into a butterfly.

Not all of the caterpillars made it. Some were knocked off. Others, eaten. But eventually, dozens fanned sunset-colored wings in the light of a new day.

It strikes me that sometimes, change means holding still, and being vulnerable, and losing pieces of yourself that once defined you. Sometimes, waiting is the most courageous thing we can do. And in order to find a new way of being, we must be willing to surrender. A lot.

But it’s worth it! God has already put inside the caterpillar all it needs for what’s next. Colors, once written on fat, earthbound bodies are transferred to shimmery wings. The sky above, the earth below, all are now its domain. It is fast and nimble and free. It just had to hold still and wait.

Sometimes, after we have done all we can, we must simply wait and trust God’s transforming power to be at work within us. It’s hard. It’s terrifying. But, ask any caterpillar, it’s worth it!

You Also May Like

Buy Finding God on Amazon