There are virtual miracles that surround us in God’s created world—wonders we take for granted too easily. In the life cycles of even the lowliest of creatures, the One who is their Creator and ours has placed lessons and examples for us to consider.
It is easy to think of the well-known transformation of caterpillar to butterfly and fail to consider the everyday miracle it represents. It is truly one of the great wonders of the living world.
Let’s take some time to muse on the caterpillar and the butterfly, nature’s masters of metamorphosis, and then let’s consider just one important lesson it represents for us.
There’s truly nothing about a caterpillar that would suggest it is a butterfly in disguise. In fact, some look at caterpillars and see nothing but pests that threaten to destroy their plants and crops—and, indeed, caterpillars have a voracious appetite! Often looking like a fat worm with stumpy legs, caterpillars spend their days eating leaf after leaf, constantly growing and becoming larger and larger, shedding skin several times as they bulk up.
Yet they aren’t driven by greed or gluttony. They are on a dedicated mission, preparing for one of the most astonishing transformations in all of God’s creation!
Eventually the caterpillar will find its way to a secure location and create a silken anchor of sorts that it uses to attach itself to the twig or branch, often on the underside. Then, within its own body, just under its skin, a chrysalis begins to form—a hard surface that will enclose the caterpillar as it begins to change. As the chrysalis begins to reach completion, the caterpillar will completely let go of the branch, dangling by its anchor, and it will shed the outermost layer of its body. Eventually, all that is left hanging is the chrysalis, with the body of the caterpillar hidden within.
It would be easy to conclude that the caterpillar has simply died after creating its own dangling tomb, but the very opposite is true. While the chrysalis hangs there, quiet and immobile as a coffin, what’s going on inside the casket is a flurry of activity! Many of the old structures of the caterpillar’s body are destroyed—tissues are dissolved by enzymes into their protein components, and muscles are broken down into small building blocks of cells, all to be reorganized into new structures with different purposes. Some of the caterpillar’s organs are rearranged, such as the breathing tube that will now be used to power the muscles of wings.
After a time of deceptively quiet inactivity on the outside, the chrysalis suddenly bursts open to reveal a completely different life form to the world! The caterpillar that had disappeared from sight within what seemed to be a tiny coffin emerges to life once again, but in the form of a beautiful butterfly. Its set of 16 stubby legs and “prolegs” have become six thin, spindly butterfly legs, that will allow it to crawl on the petals of the most delicate flowers. Its large, bulbous body has been replaced by the smaller, graceful thorax and abdomen of the butterfly. Similarly, the creature’s head—once possessing six small, simple eyes and leaf-chewing mouth parts—now boasts two large, complex eyes, capable of feats of vision beyond our own, and a gentle, curved proboscis—a straw-like structure the butterfly will use to suck sweet nectar from flowers and fruit.
And, of course, there are the beautiful wings. Structures of intricate design and often artistically stunning coloration, the wings of the butterfly are perhaps the starkest indication of the complete and utter metamorphosis that the creature has experienced. The portly, grubby, leaf-eating caterpillar is gone, though not truly gone. Rather, it has been transformed into the beautiful, delicate butterfly—a creature seemingly as far removed from the caterpillar as one could imagine.
From the very first moment that the caterpillar came into existence as a tiny egg, its Designer—the great Creator of all things—had placed the blueprint of this exquisite butterfly right there in its genetic code, just waiting for the right time and opportunity to express itself and transform this humble “worm” into a wondrous creature of flight and fancy. What a tribute to God’s intelligence and ingenuity!
But the astonishing transformation of the lowly, worm-like caterpillar into the radically different creature we call the butterfly provides a beautiful analogy for a far more astonishing transformation God is accomplishing within mankind.
The people we see as we look in the mirror may disappoint us. Too fat. Too skinny. Too short. Too tall. Filled with good intentions, perhaps, but, as Jesus Himself said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Yet God plans a future transformation for human beings of such vast, even cosmic significance, that the remarkable metamorphosis from base caterpillar to beautiful butterfly pales in comparison!
The Bible reveals that all true Christians—those living and those long dead—will be utterly changed at the resurrection to come at the return of Jesus Christ, “who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21). Yes, a future body and glorified existence awaits humanity, as children of God for all eternity—an existence radically different from what we experience now!
Like the caterpillar, which “dies” (in a sense) in its chrysalis only to emerge as a glorious new creature, utterly different from what it was before, God intends a transformation for us, as well: “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:42–43). This glorification of the children of God is an event of such beautiful majesty that God’s word says the entirety of creation awaits the moment with anticipation, knowing that the transformation of humanity and the birth of God’s children represents the liberation of the universe from the bondage of its current corruption (Romans 8:20–22).
If you have not read of this metamorphosis of humanity before in your Bible, please consider requesting our free booklet, Your Ultimate Destiny. God’s purpose for your life is awesome to consider! For those of us willing to truly repent of our sins, not only is there a new life that can be experienced today, but there is also the promise of a radical new existence in the future as a child of God!
As the patriarch Job once said during his time of trial and testing, “All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes” (Job 14:14). It is easy to imagine such words coming from the caterpillar, itself! And like our leaf-eating friends, we, too, have a transformation ahead of us—but one of far greater significance and wonder.
Let us praise our Creator, who has created us with a purpose and is, right now, working toward our transformation. We may live the life of the caterpillar now, but the butterfly is our destiny! And we can pray to that Creator in hope, alongside Job, with an eye toward our metamorphosis to come: “You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands” (v. 15).