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The Exaltation of Butterfly

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

I like to imagine my own faith transition like this:

Being born into the dogma of religion felt like a caterpillar hatching from its egg in a glass box. The glass box contains a few edible plants, a source of water, other caterpillars, and their butterfly parents. Finding its needs met the caterpillar eats and grows. The glass box sits in an expansive meadow filled with many types of wildflowers and running streams bathed in golden sunlight. The butterflies outside of the box flit from one flower to the next, warm their wings in the sun, and sip mineral-rich water from the stream bank.

But the box, while lovely, is also old and smudged, growing over with moss, so the view to the outside is limited. The butterflies in the box tell the stories told by their parents. “The box protects us from predators.” “The box shields us from wind which may blow us away.” “The box protects us from being drowned by rain.” Stories of the outside world tell of a dangerous, unforgiving place. So many of the caterpillars born into the glass box believe staying in the box is THE way to be safe.

Occasionally a caterpillar escapes, seeking to experience the world’s entirety. Those who do rarely return. Sometimes a new caterpillar arrives from the outside world. Having experienced fear or danger and seeking refuge, further instilling the belief that the outside world is dangerous and the box safe.

So the caterpillars munch the same tired plants and the butterflies gather on the few white flowers that manage to bloom in the box.

One day the little caterpillar was peering out through the smudges and saw a bright pink speck grow and expand. He realized it must be a flower, even though in the box he’d never seen a flower of this color. Then he sees a smudge of beautiful iridescent color flit over to the pink flower. Recognizing the flight pattern as that of another butterfly the caterpillar becomes excited. “I wonder what the leaves of the pink flowered plant taste like.”

He watches as the iridescent smudge of a butterfly flits down to a surface of glittering luminosity, he recognizes must be water. “I wonder what it’s like to drink from water that glitters and dances in golden light.”

The caterpillar fell asleep that night dreaming of pink flowers, golden water, and iridescent wings.

Gazing out of the box the following days he realizes that if he stays in the box he knows exactly what to expect : white flowers, trickling water, and a sense of safety. Outside the box is a meadow of limitless possibilities, bright colors, dancing water, as well as potential danger. He decides even if his death immediately follows tasting the pink flower it will have been worth it.

Feeling his metamorphosis nearing he spends all night tunneling out of the box into a world of dark mystery. Exhausted, he climbs up the nearest stem and tucks under a leaf for sleep. Many days pass, unknown to the little caterpillar.

One golden morning he awakens. He stretches his muscles, cracking and creaking his stiff body to life. He climbs to the top of the plant with what feels like a huge backpack, and finally rests in the center of a pink flower. Its sweet essence is like nothing he’s ever experienced. He looks around, noticing how expansive the meadow is - how colorful, lively, and warm. On top of the pink flower he sways in the breeze as the soft wind pushes against his new wings.

He turns his gaze, seeing the glass box he once called home with entirely new eyes. This shift in his perspective offers confirmation for his decision to leave. Looking across the meadow he notices more glass boxes, dotting the landscape. Imagining the stories being told in each of those boxes, he laughs, offers a nod of gratitude to the box and flits on the breeze to the bank of the dancing mountain stream, quenching his eternal thirst for exploration and expansion next to dragon flies, bees, butterflies of many colors, and all manner of magical creature they had forgotten existed back in the box.

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