Typically when we speak of transformation as a metaphor, writers and ministers alike will reference the butterfly. See how this green worm completely changes even its physical composition to become the butterfly! In this metaphor, we are invited to consider our own transformation and what would be required of us in the metamorphosis. In this version, change is seen as a difficult but rewarding process that leads to the beauty of the butterfly.
But transformation, or spiritual change, is not always so.
Consider the moth.
See how this brown worm completely changes even its physical composition to become the moth! Oh, this is significantly less inspiring of a metaphor when it ends in an insect whose claim to fame is the terrible smelling deterrent: moths balls. In this version, change is seen as a difficult and disappointing process that leads to a little-loved bug.
And let’s face it, while we are stretching the metaphor, you are far more statistically likely to be a moth than a butterfly. With 160,000 species of moths and a mere 15,000 species of butterflies, the odds for becoming the less-cherished insect are clear!
In truth we all change, even those of us who aspire not to change. For some, our lives are a constant evolution of ideas, spirit, and experience. We become more open, compassionate, and wise. For others, our lives are marked by a constant narrowing of ideas, spirit, and experience. We become more entrenched than ever and less able to respond to the world, more inclined to react to the world. Thankfully, unlike the genetic coding of the moth or butterfly, our destiny is not set at birth. The only constant is change.
Change is a given, but the path of transformation is ours to choose.
In some religious communities, transformation is presented as an instantaneous moment of “seeing the light.” When I was growing up and so many would speak of profound experiences of God literally speaking and calling to them, I always felt a little lost. My experience of God was so often subtle, diffusive, expansive and universal. I couldn’t point to moments when the heavens opened or a voice came down upon clouds. I could offer a clear insight of constant companionship or greater awareness of the sacred around me. To quote the singer song writer Peter Mayer, “everything is holy now.”
It is this gradual transformation to which I can relate.
So how do we become the butterfly and not the moth?
I think like the transformation process being subtle, it means an intentional effort at reflection, slowing down to notice the processes around as well as within and a clarity of destination. Fortunately, unlike the moth or butterfly, there are some choices we get in this transformation.
I hope you’ll join us in this May of transformation (our theme for the month) as we explore together how to become the butterflies, bringing beauty into the world where we can.
In faith and spirit,