I have been thinking a lot about butterflies lately. During this pandemic, my 5-year-old has been attending online class each morning for thirty minutes. One morning, her teachers mentioned that they were going to be learning about butterflies, so I went online and ordered some caterpillars to raise. We raised caterpillars when our daughter was much younger, so we already had the habitat. It was fascinating to watch the caterpillars grow fatter and longer and then attach themselves to the roof of the little cup they came in, shed their skin, and become chrysalides. Did you know that the caterpillar’s head comes off as it becomes a chrysalis and that it completely liquifies inside? The caterpillar’s body is broken down into liquid imaginal cells, which are cells that can become any type of cell. When the butterfly is formed, it does not use all of the imaginal cells from the caterpillar, so when it emerges from the chrysalis, the unused liquified cells come out, too. Four of our five caterpillars made it through metamorphosis and broke out of their chrysalides as beautiful painted lady butterflies. The fifth one’s chrysalis turned black, and it never emerged.
I think the butterflies are a great metaphor for what is happening to our society right now. The fabric that holds our lives and our society together has been liquified and now is made up of imaginal cells. And what imaginal cells they are! Our Earth is greener, blue skies have replaced gray smog over large cities, endangered turtles are laying eggs on beaches in greater numbers than ever before, and wild deer have been spotted walking empty streets in Japan. We are communicating more with both the people with whom we live and the people with whom we do not live. We are spending our money carefully and supporting small, local businesses and restaurants. We are washing our hands and politely giving each other space. We are helping our elderly and immune-compromised neighbors pick up groceries and medicine. We are going for multiple walks a day and throwing the ball for our dog a few extra times. We are spending time reading and making crafts and cooking and baking. We are sewing masks not just for our families but also for the essential workers- doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, EMTs, grocery store workers, pharmacists, mail carriers, and others. We are studying our Bibles, praying, and worshipping in our homes.
As the world begins to open up again, it is up to us to decide how our imaginal cells will form back together. Will we try to put them back together just as they were, resisting the metamorphosis, and turning our chrysalis black? Or, will we take what we have learned during this time, following the lead of Jesus, and piece our imaginal cells together in a way that preserves the beauty and delicate simplicity we have found? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” It is my prayer that as our society is transformed we remember what we have found in our chrysalis- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.