During its lifetime a Monarch butterfly goes through four stages. First it is an egg which must develop and eventually hatch. When it hatches, the Monarch is a caterpillar. It is very busy during this brief time of its life, eating as much as once or twice its weight in leaves every day and growing rapidly. In fact, it must shed its skin and develop a new one several times during this stage. Then it encloses itself in a chrysalis and seems to be resting. Actually, during this third stage of its life it is undergoing a remarkable transformation called metamorphosis, in which it is being made into a totally new creature. No longer will it look like a striped worm with many legs. It will emerge as a delicate, colorful butterfly. When it first breaks out of the chrysalis its wings are still weak and wet. It spends several hours fluttering them to dry and strengthen them. Finally ready, it fulfills its full potential, living the remainder of its life as a beautiful butterfly.
We, too, go through several stages on our journey of spiritual growth and development. At first we are like the butterfly eggs in our spiritual immaturity. At some point in our spiritual youth (which may be in adulthood, depending upon when we experience conversion) we gain understanding and accountability and are spiritually born, like the eggs hatch. This may or may not happen when we are baptized.
For some period of time we live as caterpillars, focusing almost exclusively on satisfying our appetites. Some of us get stuck in this phase of our lives, and don’t develop spiritual maturity due to our addictions. A recovery program can help us get unstuck.
As we work the 12 Step program we become more spiritually aware through the first three steps. This phase of our spiritual lives can be compared to the caterpillar stage of the Monarch’s life. We may shed old or immature beliefs like the caterpillar sheds its old skin to make room for our spiritual development, but we still look pretty much like a caterpillar.
When we get to step 4 we begin a period of in depth introspection and inventorying of our past. This is kind of like entering the chrysalis stage of our lives. Giving away our inventories in Step 5, identifying our shortcomings and becoming willing to ask God to remove them (Step 6) clears the way for us to be completely changed by the Lord, right down to receiving a new heart (Step 7).
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh Ezekiel 36:26
In Steps 8 and 9 we complete the spiritual metamorphosis as we shed resentments, guilt and shame and make restitution and amends for all of our previous mistakes, misdeeds and sins. We emerge from this process cleansed and ready to live a new life in the maintenance steps (10, 11 and 12) using the structure of these steps to “flutter our wings” and become spiritually strong and independent, be delivered from the bondage of our addictions, and have the maturity to serve others and share what we have learned in our own journey.
- Where are you in your emotional and spiritual journey?
- Write about your experience using the metaphor of the monarch, comparing your spiritual metamorphosis to the butterfly’s life.
- What will you do today to move forward in spiritual maturity?
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