The caterpillar exists to eat. To eat and grow. To grow and change. He has no other duty than that. We can look at him and think how pitiful it is that he spends his entire existence in one garden, probably never moving more than a few feet! It seems such a shame that he never travels, never sees the big wide world. Beyond that garden, there is a forest, and beyond that forest, mountains and rivers and oceans. But even if I were able to encourage the caterpillar to get out, to broaden his horizons, he can’t do it. He cannot leave his food plant. He hatches from his egg in the place where he must live, and if he goes too far away, he will die. That plant is his very life. And besides, he has no time for frivolous sightseeing. All his waking hours he must eat. He must eat and continue eating or he will die. His rudimentary digestive system requires constant food.
Perhaps for that reason, God gives a caterpillar very limited eyesight. He is able to see only inches, and even that is probably not clear. He cannot ever venture outside the garden, so what need is there for him to see the things beyond? He has no comprehension of a larger world out there—the cities and mountains and prairies and oceans simply do not exist for him.
I think that I may be the same. I look around me and I see what seems to me a huge and beautiful world. I fly in an airplane to the other side of the earth and marvel at the hugeness of it, and yet perhaps my universe is quite as small in God’s eyes as the caterpillar’s world is to me. I simply do not have the eyes to see beyond the area that God has set for me. There is always a yearning within me for something bigger, something more, something beyond. It’s possible that the caterpillar feels that same nameless longing, and only finds it realized after he has been changed into a butterfly.
It’s nice to think about coming out into new life—becoming a butterfly, so to speak—because it sounds so liberating, so thrilling. We look forward to winging our way on our first flight, finally seeing the rest of reality that has been hidden from us before. We want to fly above the tapestry, to enjoy the view of the entire pattern laid out before us, making sense of the crossed threads and loose ends we glimpse here beneath. Sometimes we get just a tiny foretaste, but never enough to truly understand. This morning I heard just a whisper of the music of heaven. It brought tears to my eyes, and I simply cannot wait to experience the reality of it.
What we tend to forget is that before we can emerge, we must be confined even more. It’s interesting that metamorphosis is a very private thing. The caterpillar goes into himself, the rest of the world is shut out, and within the cocoon or chrysalis, he is completely undone.
No one else can see the breakdown, but inside he is reduced to nothing more or less than a heart. All his other systems are completely reduced to nothing, and then he is rebuilt around that beating heart. And of course, that newly rebuilt creature is glorious—light and gossamer-winged, able to see far beyond the caterpillar’s imagining, and able to fly for thousands of miles, fueled only by occasional sips of nectar. Yes, I want that. I want to be there—to be a butterfly!
But for now, I am in the garden. I have been set on the plant that is good for my food, and my business is to eat. To feast on His Word. To eat and grow. To grow so that someday I will be changed.