In the first place you cannot go inside with anything that cannot be closed properly, which means I had to leave my purse behind—it has a snap across the top, but is not sealed with a zipper. Then you enter one door and cannot open the second until the first door has closed. When you leave, you go through the same process—through one door, wait, close the door, then through the second door—but with an added precaution: you check each other over for hitchhikers. The butterflies will land on you, especially, it seemed from our experience that day, if you have on bright colors or large floral prints. They will also land on your bare head and arms. You must walk the paths carefully so as not to trod upon one that has landed there. You sit on benches only after inspecting them. But mainly, you just look and look and look, up and over and around. They are everywhere.
The colors and patterns are breathtaking. Scarlet and black, Halloween orange and black, an intricate black and white that looks for all the world like a tatted doily; olive and black, chartreuse and black, emerald green and aqua; pale blue, royal blue, teal and blue violet; solid brown, spotted brown, banded brown, and a brown design that looks like it belongs on the walls of ancient Aztec ruins—and that’s not the half of it.
Many of these beauties were brought from other places as pupae, and as they hatch are let go every day while the visitors watch. It was a wonderful couple of hours. And after I got home I started wondering if there were any butterflies in the Bible. Well, yes, in a way.
First of all I found that back in the early days, the butterfly symbolized the resurrection of Jesus and later the resurrection of his saints. That makes a certain amount of sense. The caterpillar spins its pupa, which hangs there looking dead for a couple of weeks. Then suddenly the adult emerges, alive again, or so it appears.
But it seems to me that the better Biblical image comes from Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Just as the caterpillar is transformed into something completely different, we should be too. I am, in the words of 2 Cor 5:17, “a new creature.” Those butterflies were beautiful, but when we walked the exhibits in the halls outside their “rainforest,” the pupa on display there were mottled gray-brown and just plain ugly.
I looked up that word “transformed” and guess what the Greek word is? Metamorphoo. I would be surprised if you haven’t heard that in a sermon sometime in your life, but maybe you have never really thought about the change that insect makes from worm to butterfly. Looking at those beautiful things that morning, and then seeing those ugly pupae hanging by the score really brought the message home to me. I am not just to change a little bit; I am to change drastically. That may be difficult for you to comprehend if you were “brought up in the church” as we are prone to say, and have never really done any “big bad sins” as we tend to define them. Yet it is my obligation to find the things that need changing.
I may not read pornography, but I might become insensitive to the sin around me, especially when our culture deems it “appropriate” for television. I may not steal, but my selfishness can rob others of any time or service they might need from me. I may not commit idolatry, but I can become so celebrity-conscious that what those people say, do and wear becomes my model instead of Christ. I may not murder, but I commit character assassination every time I call, text, or post.
Those butterflies we saw that day were almost too pretty for this sin-sick, ugly world. That’s what people should be thinking about us. We are not like the world, and we don’t like the world. There is a better place coming, a “Butterfly Rainforest” for all those who have transformed their lives to be like their Lord. Don’t land on the coat of a passerby and allow yourself to be removed from that hope.
…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and…be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, Eph 4:22-24.