On Butterflies and Second Birth

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
— The Gospel According to John 3:3-10
There are powerful payoffs to be found in staying stuck and deferring nurturing your sense of self.
— Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way

We're butterflies, people!

We're butterflies, people!

Earlier this week, I talked about the need to grow up while staying young. Taking that a step further today, I want to talk about butterflies.


A butterfly has four stages of life. Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult. In a sense, the butterfly has two births. Emerging from the egg as a caterpillar, and emerging from the cocoon as an adult butterfly. Each stage is beautiful and perfect in its own way. But can you imagine if butterflies stopped progressing all the way to the adult stage? If we no longer saw brilliantly colored butterflies flying, and only noticed the slow and steady movement of them in their childhood? What if we didn't even know that butterflies were designed and adapted to have these four cycles? We wouldn't know what we were missing. How true of us as humans.

Many of us, perhaps most of us, may live caterpillar lives. Beautiful in its own way, but never fully realized. Our eyes see only what is in front of us, but miss the magic, miss the beauty, miss the hovering presence of God in all people and all of life. We eat, we sleep, we move, we die... But did we truly live? Caterpillars are creatures of consumption. They are eating and eating and eating to store up the energy needed for their metamorphosis. So many of us get stuck in this bodily consumption-mentality. Resisting the quiet and felt isolation of the chrysalis, we content ourselves to merely human activity. We all are born of water (physical birth), but we forsake the inward journey (the birth of spirit).

Now, I'm not talking about what belief you ascribe to. I'm not talking about becoming a "this" or a "that" believer. I'm talking about the peace, the love, the joy, always available and yet so often forsaken. 

I know what it's like to resist the pupa stage.  To be attached to activity. To find my identity in what I do. To busy myself with people and "work" so that I never have to sit still, never have to be with myself. This kind of life finds me always living on the fringe, not giving space to the inner work of metanoia and metamorphosis. This resistance stunts my growth. I stay a caterpillar instead of being transfigured and transformed into all of who we are and what we can be.

I don't think a caterpillar overthinks when it's time to build the cocoon. This overthinking and busying of mental attachment seems to be a uniquely human dilemma. No, the caterpillar flows from stage to stage in a natural progression... We can block our own flow. There are payoffs. Being justified. Being right. Getting to play the victim in the drama of our own life... But it's not worth it in the end. 

I believe we are all meant to be butterflies. While we all inhabit bodies that do not technically have wings, we are not merely children of matter, but spirit. We all have two births, the inner and the outer. The "Butterfly Person" is one who sees the abundant flow of spirit, the one who recognizes love and moves to open themselves more and more into love, a love that extends to all. Or, we can cling to our ideas and justifications. I can identify with my opinions and feelings and miss the people, sparks of the divine flame, right in front of me. I can choose: Worry, anxiety, my own comfort, and a whole host of other diversions to keep me from my own growth... Or I can embrace the cocoon. I may not get to choose (consciously from this vantage point) how long I am in the chrysalis stage, but I know that my resistance only creates unnecessary pain. 

We may be embodied creatures that do not technically have wings, but I believe we were born to fly. Let the wind blow where it pleases and enjoy the ride. Have eyes to see and ears to hear what is in and beneath and beyond and around and not be merely material. 

Let's be born again, shall we? Allowing the metamorphosis of a loving universe to pull us and others into the next stage of our cycle. Living and abiding in a transformative love. 

Then, let's fly.