I often find myself in awe of women who have the perfect reply or message for their young children in moments of curiosity, conflict, or meltdown. My first reaction is usually one of quick escalation. I won’t lie, I’m a yeller. So when my moment of God’s perfect message coming out of my mouth happened, I found myself in awe of how I handled the situation and quickly realized that it wasn’t awe of myself, but awe of God.
It’s been almost a year since it happened, and I can still remember it like it was just minutes ago. I quit my career and started my journey of obedience as a stay at home mom on August 1, 2018. My youngest daughter was supposed to go to pre-school, and I decided to keep her home with me instead. My older children were starting 4th grade and Kindergarten, respectively. One of the field trips that the kindergarten class takes every year is to a local farm that grows vegetables and hosts a farm stand. The kids get to ride wagons out into the field and pick all the stuff they want that’ll fit into a grocery sack. I had attended this field trip years before when my son was in Kindergarten, so I opted to pass and not attend with my middle child.
I thought it would be a fun surprise to see what Olivia brought home with her from the farm that day. When I picked her up from school, I remember chuckling that my super picky eater only brought home a head of cabbage (fully intact with its shoot and leaves), 2 ears of corn, and a tomato. Corn was the only vegetable she had eaten in the past. Neither the cabbage nor the tomato seemed like a vegetable she would tolerate eating in the future. She quickly asked if I could make bierocks. Clearly a parent on the bus had filled the children’s heads with ideas.
I put the veggies away and quickly tamed Olivia’s expectations for dinner that evening as it had already been planned. The bierocks were going to have to wait for another day. A few evenings later, we decided we’d shuck the corn and give it a go. We had to quickly change plans. Both ears of corn were riddled with bugs. Luckily, I also had ingredients for tacos, and Olivia couldn’t have been more excited for a tomato. Little did I know it would be the one and only tomato she’d ever be excited for.
After preparing all the little nuances for tacos, it was time to cut the tomato. The tomato was beautiful. It was a bright red with firm flesh. It had no blemishes on the outside. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect tomato at the grocery store. I sliced it in half and opened it up. My very first thought was, “How in Jesus’ name did that get in there?”. Remember James in the Giant Peach? It was the biggest, juiciest, white and green caterpillar just digging life in the middle of the tomato. I put the two pieces back together to see if I somehow missed a hole that allowed this trespasser into the tomato. Nope, no hole. Not a single sign of that little (BIG!) guy living in there. Olivia was crushed.
But this is when it gets good! This is when the Holy Spirit just swooped in and took over my mouth. Olivia and I talked about two things that I didn’t know I even knew or understood.
The first was beauty and blemishes. How someone can look like the perfect specimen on the outside but on the inside, they have not so pretty parts. Things like anger, jealousy, depression, deception. Things that don’t show in the way you do your hair, the makeup you put on your face, the clothes you put on your body. Things that can easily be hid when you’re doing good things like volunteering, caring for others, or obeying your parents. How these things are called sin and how every. Single. One. Of. Us. Has them. How there’s plump little caterpillars just hanging out in all of us whether we want them there or not. Even though those caterpillars are inside of us, it is our choice to feed them or let them starve. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says…
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”.
So, to fix the blemishes we must give our lives to Christ. But it’s more than that. We have to then make choices to starve those caterpillars. We must make choices every day, sometimes every minute, to live by the blood of Christ instead being defined by the blemishes and defects. For a 6-year-old it wasn’t the easiest concept to understand, but I made sure she knew that even if she slipped up and even if she sinned, she’d still be saved by Jesus.
But how do you starve that little juicy caterpillar? I’ll admit, it feels good sometimes to feed it. Feeding my flesh, which in turn feeds this little caterpillar of sin inside of me, makes me physically feel good and might make me popular with a certain group of people. But starving that chubby little bug will let it turn into the real treasure. I don’t know for sure if a caterpillar knows its life cycle, I don’t know if it knows it will grow up to be a majestic, colorful, agile butterfly. I do know that I like food. I’ve always loved food. It’s an experience for me to eat, I live through tasting, but Matthew 5:6 says that, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Tell me though, that I’m not the only one who would rather be filled with a good old piece of cake instead of righteousness. It’s hard, and again it’s about choices. The choice to be satiated in that moment or the choice to do the right thing and live by God’s word.
The second thing we talked about was transformation. Olivia asked what we would do with the caterpillar. We ended up just putting the two pieces of tomato back together and putting it in the trash. We talked about how caterpillars become butterflies. I told her we’d leave the bag open and let him make his little home (cocoon) and if he was ready before our trashmen came that he could get out and flap his little wings and find a new home. But more importantly, how each of us goes through this sort of transformation when we give our lives to Christ. How all it takes is one little whisper of the word “yes” and we can all become beautiful butterflies.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will”.
I’ve been told that the stages of development and transformation between a caterpillar making a cocoon and it emerging as a butterfly includes the insect being turned into a mush like substance and being completely rebuilt. I know it’s hard to imagine that this it is comparable to what happens to us, but humor me for a minute. If you’ve given your life to Christ than you know that it’s not always an explainable miracle that happens. Sometimes it is easy for me to believe that something in me completely fell apart into a mush before I was rebuilt into a daughter of Christ. How sometimes I don’t know how to explain why I know certain truths or why I feel the way I feel, that I just know. I don’t know for sure, but I am choosing to believe that it is the same transformation. When I was studying transformation I ran across Philippians 3:21, “Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” God is impressing on the caterpillar mush to grow wings and fly, and God is impressing on me to close my eyes and take the leap on the wings of His truth. Both are transformations that are going to lead to flight. I can only fly when I am living by God’s word.
I remember Olivia being a little perplexed. It’s hard for me at 32 to wrap my mind around it, so it couldn’t have been easy for a then 5-year-old. But occasionally, I’m reminded by God that it made enough sense to her to impress the right message – that she knows what it means to “take flight”. I pray regularly that she’ll never forget that. That one day she won’t need reminded that it’s safe to fly with God.
All of this happened before I knew the theme of this year’s Arise was “Take Flight”. When I sat in the room with Pastor Lynette and she said “Take Flight”, I immediately thought of the tomato and the caterpillar. I knew in every fiber of my being that this was God. I don’t always listen, but I knew that in that moment, God was telling me that I was in the right place. I knew I was where I was supposed to be. God wanted me to volunteer to be on the Arise team. God wanted me to share my silly little caterpillar story with you. He wants you to be at Arise too. He wants you to learn how to transform from that chubby little caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. He wants you to take your new butterfly wings and take flight for the kingdom of God. Trust me, it might seem scary, but it’s safe.
Hebrews 12:27-29 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”