I’ve tended to view change not as something transformative and life giving, but as something traumatic, and even potentially deadly
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every thing under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1
It was an epiphany of sorts, coming forth as a season of change presents itself. In the midst of a series of painful life adjustments, I admitted for the first time that I don’t like change. During a moment of insight, I suddenly understood that I’ve associated change with chaos, uncertainty and pain, and with having the rug pulled right out from under my feet.
How many of us experience change this way?
As it often happens when God opens up a theme for metanoia (which means to change one’s mind and heart about something), all of life’s conversations and events suddenly seemed to segue into one single exclamation point. This week’s lesson on change was no exception.
First, there was the butterfly that lay on the ground in front of the chapel: a gorgeous creature decorated with brilliant fall colors, that appeared to be trying to flutter its wings. I leaned over and picked it up, only to realize that its wing was broken and that ants were already eating its corpse. Putting the butterfly back in its place, I went into the chapel to pray. There, I opened my spiritual reading to a page that, of all unexpected things, was discussing the butterfly as a metaphor for the spiritual life.
That got my attention.
A butterfly is probably the quintessential image of change: a being whose existence comes about by a metamorphosis that literally transforms a creature into something new, and quite often, into something stunningly beautiful. As I prayed with the image, it became quickly obvious that the broken-winged butterfly represented how I’ve tended to view change—not as something transformative and life giving, but as something traumatic, and even potentially deadly.
I could almost hear God whispering: Could it be time to embrace a new understanding of change?
My next stop was an Al-Anon meeting, where the topic of the day was…you guessed it: Change! It seems that a common theme among those adversely affected by the insanity of addiction is a strong resistance to change. Like me, many people healing from addiction’s fallout equate change with chaos and uncertainty—and with holding one’s breath to brace for what’s coming next. But the real insight of the meeting was that a person must be proactive about change in order to find healing. In fact, choosing to change is often absolutely necessary for new life to emerge.
This brought me back to the butterfly. Wanting to understand how metamorphosis occurs, I began to search the internet when I returned home. I was fascinated to learn that scientists often equate a caterpillar’s morphing into a butterfly with death and resurrection, a point that brought the whole lesson full circle. The greatest change that has ever happened in history—the greatest metamorphosis that’s ever taken place in the universe—was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which happened only after Jesus willingly chose to embrace death, and all of its accompanying terrors, to change the corruptible into what is incorruptible, and death itself into victorious new life.
Personal change usually involves our willful acceptance of many deaths—the death of our ways, our wills, our wishes—for the promise of new life. And little by little, through a process of transfiguration that takes time and patience, we begin to find our interior hardware radically rearranged unto glory, that we might alight with new wings that bear his brilliance—wings that can only burst forth by the shedding of the old and the awakening to the new. In a word, through change.