Before a caterpillar can become a beautiful butterfly it must spin a cocoon around itself, digesting itself into a “soup,” leaving behind special cells that will become its new eyes, antennae, and even its colorful wings. Before an eaglet can sore majestically, its mother must tear apart the only home the eaglet has known, exposing the underlying thorns that hold its nest together. Growth always involves work, and oftentimes even pain, but growth is necessary for life and that includes our spiritual life in Christ. We cannot stay where we are any more than the eaglet or the caterpillar…
In the book “An Eagle to the Sky,” Frances Hamerstrom describes the eaglet’s struggle with moving forward and the mother eagle’s way of forcing the process by allowing the eaglet to become quite hungry: “A parent flew by, downwind, dangling a young marmot in its feet. The eaglet almost lost his balance in his eagerness for food. Then the parent swung by again, closer, upwind, and riding the updraft by the eyrie, as though daring him to fly. Lifted light by the wind, he was airborne-flying-or more gliding-for the first time in his life.” The mother will bring the eaglet close to starvation and even destroy its home because comfort is not an option in the eaglet’s journey of growth. The wise mother knows her baby will die if it stays in the comfort of a soft nest.
The butterfly does not start as a beauty, dancing about from one bloom to another while enjoying their sweet nectar. First it is a caterpillar, plump and slow as it moves on the ground. And then it is little more than an oozing mess before it can become a butterfly! There is a story about a young boy who wanted to help a caterpillar as it struggled in the process of breaking free from its silky, protective home, and he did just that. But what emerged was a body too large for flight, and a pair of color-filled wings too weak to carry the butterfly. All the work that would lead to the butterfly’s freedom and life was spared, to its end.
This is the way with our spiritual growth as well–pain and struggle as we reach toward maturity. We try to change sinful habits, we work on wrong thoughts and attitudes, ill tempers. Yes, staying right where we are is a real temptation! And in this process, we must learn where our work ends and Christ’s grace finishes the process. But just as with the eaglet and the caterpillar, staying where we are–comfortable–will not lead to spiritual health and life.
In 1 Timothy, chapter 4, spiritual growth in Christ is the focus. In verse 15, we are encouraged in our growth process: Take pains with these things, be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. (NASB) We are never left alone to work out our sanctification after salvation. The Lord is there to help us along our way. He is patient, loving, and kind…looking at our heart and not just our outward life. Still, we are involved in the growth process with Him, and there will be work to do.
Some days, we may feel like that eaglet getting pushed from its comfortable place, or that caterpillar–a real mess! But knowing that He is there to help on the journey to spiritual maturity, how do you feel about the process of growth in your life?