The Monarch butterfly fascinates me. It always has. I remember back in grade school when our class’ pet caterpillar ate all the milkweed we could find to feed it. We watched it shed its skin several times before it hung upside down, shedding its skin for the last time during the pupa stage, becoming a beautiful green chrysalis. We watched with anticipation as the chrysalis slowly became transparent, revealing the butterfly that was developing inside. Metamorphosis. What a great idea! Only God could come up with such an idea.
In the Monarch butterfly metamorphosis process, the caterpillar has but one job – to eat and not be eaten. After eating its fill of milkweed, the caterpillar takes a two-week nap inside the chrysalis. While napping, God transforms it into an amazing butterfly with the same DNA, but a totally different look.
The Apostle Paul, author of the letter to the first century Roman Christians, cautioned his readers not to be molded by the world around them but, instead, to be transformed from the inside out by the renewing their minds (Romans 12:2). The Greek word that is translated as “transformed” is metamorphoo, from which we derive metamorphosis. Paul is telling the readers that in God’s economy, we are to act more like caterpillars rather than straining to become like butterflies. The economy of the world around us tells us we should strive to transform ourselves. Paul reminds us not to become molded by that approach, but to let God do the transforming through the renewing of our minds. But practically, how does that happen? A couple thoughts…
First, we need to learn not to conform. Or maybe choose not to conform. There were a lot of milkweed plants in the pasture on our family farm. I remember watching hundreds of caterpillars chomping away, focused on eating and not being eaten. I also noticed that the caterpillars were not at all tempted to join the cows as they ate the bountiful harvest of wild clover. They were not tempted to conform to what the cows around them were doing.
Second, we need to eat. God cannot transform a starving caterpillar. Nor can he transform people that aren’t taking in the nourishment that leads to a renewed mind. Consider this saying from the February 21 blog post…
If I keep on thinking what I’ve always thought,
then I’ll keep on perceiving what I’ve always perceived.
If I keep on perceiving what I’ve always perceived,
then I’ll keep on seeing what I’ve always seen.
If I keep on seeing what I’ve always seen,
then I’ll keep on doing what I’ve always done.
If I keep on doing what I’ve always done,
then I’ll keep on getting what I’ve always gotten.
This little verse is about change, about transformation. It starts with a change in our thinking; it ends with a transformed life. As we take in scripture, as we continuously hang out with the “visible expression of the invisible God” through the Gospels, and as we listen to messages that help us make sense of what we are reading, our minds are changed and renewed. Our main job is to let God’s thoughts permeate our minds and thoughts. Then, and only then, can God transform our behavior from the inside out. It’s his job and he’s really good at it. When we take the transformation process upon ourselves, we become become self-righteous moralists and are of little value to those around us who need to know Jesus.