A few days ago, I was listening to the Fun Therapy podcast, hosted by Mike Foster. Mike is a Christian therapist who interviews people about their lives and their stories, going into the deep places in their hearts. It’s not actually fun, by the way, in the traditional sense, so don’t picture an upbeat theme song or fast paced conversation.
In this episode he was talking to Annie F. Downs (author, speaker, and host of the That Sounds Fun podcast), making an analogy between us and caterpillars in the process of metamorphosis. In case you don’t know this, when a caterpillar goes inside its cocoon, it uses enzymes to digest itself, eventually becoming mostly liquefied. Some organs remain basically the same, some are restructured, and some, which had previously been dormant, are awakened for use (i.e., the imaginal discs which become wings).
If you’ve been a Christian for long, you’ve no doubt heard that the word for the transfiguration of Jesus, and for the transformation that happens to us, as followers of Jesus, shares it’s root with the word “metamorphosis.” For instance, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” We are changed/transformed/metamorphosed from one thing into another glorious thing.
My experience tells me that the liquefied caterpillar is the perfect analogy for what happens to us, as Christ followers, as we are changed “from glory to glory.” Step by step, we become something completely different.
As Mike went on, he said something like, “out of this liquefied life comes something beautiful.” It stopped me in my tracks when he said it. I’ve been feeling a little disintegrated myself, lately.
A writer named Joseph Campbell (who I’ve not read, beyond this quote) said this:
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” I have found this to be true and I have a feeling I’ve got more caves to explore.
In the cave of pain, the cocoon of transformation, lies our hope. We all have our ways of dealing with pain, with conflict, with shame. We mitigate it in whatever ways that were most natural to our personalities when we were children. Or we handled it in the ways our parents or adult leaders taught us: hide it, cover it, let it all out, become a doormat, pretend you’re fine, put on a mask, become a bully…whatever. It’s all a means to avoid feeling pain.
Numbness, anger, codependency – pick your poison. Because that’s what it is: poison to your soul, and to the life God has given you.
It’s only in the cocoon, where all the things we have used to survive on our own are dissolved into a useless sludge, that we begin to come alive as new creatures. All the bits and pieces we need are already there, lying dormant, because the spirit of God is in us.
The seeds of the life of Christ are there.
He has breathed His life into you. And because of that, and because he loves you, and because He loves the people around you, He will allow things to come which make you feel like you are dying. Like everything has fallen apart in an irreparable way.
All those tools that once worked for you, that got you through, are not needed anymore. They aren’t the best tools, or the best ways. And, let’s be honest, they didn’t really work before…they just carried you for a time, until He could get to you and begin your transformation.
Understand this: no matter what things look like, if you are a Christ follower, His spirit is in you, and you ARE a new creation, right now.
But you are in process. We are all in different places on this journey and we need to give each other grace to become. The more space we make for people who are in the cave, the faster their processes will go. And the sooner you stop trying to avoid your own pain, acting as though you’ve already arrived, the sooner you’ll actually be transformed into the image of Christ from the inside out.
Reserve judgment. Don’t rush others or yourself. Keep your ears open to what He is saying and He will teach you the way to go. Sometimes His instructions seem counter-intuitive, or counterproductive, and maybe the keepers of the Law in your life will try to tell you what THE RIGHT thing to do is. But the right thing to do is what the Holy Spirit is telling you to do. Even if it’s different than what might be the right thing for someone else in a similar situation.
Inside the cocoon, or the cave, whichever analogy you prefer, we are surrounded by something so healing and transformative, that it can’t not do it’s job: the unconditional love of God. There’s no pain, rejection, sin, or failure, we can’t face when it’s done in the knowledge that we are absolutely loved and forgiven, and will be loved to the end.
You’ve got beautiful wings waiting to emerge, friend, but they’ll only be seen after the process runs its course. Fear not. He is good. Stay in. Don’t run. You will make it. You will become. You are new.