Well, the caterpillars are out in force this week at our house and my 5-year-old, Jayna, has decided that collecting fuzzy black caterpillars is the most fun thing ever. Earlier this week, she put them all in a bucket, then scattered them over the front deck - oh joy. So, while I was trying to avoid stepping on them on the way out to the car, I was reminded of this story (so maybe her caterpillar collecting was really a prompting from God after all...). Anyway, it happened like this:
A pair of black, beady eyes stared into mine from across my pillow. I leapt up. “Aargh! Ewwww!” My yell reverberated off the rafters. I bit my lip to cut off another shout.
Bryan jolted up and rubbed his hand over his face. “What’s wrong? What is it?”
“Yuck! Look.” I pointed a shaking finger at the green, squirmy caterpillar now inching across my pillowcase. A chill fishtailed down my spine.
Bryan glanced at the insect and yawned. “Oh, is that all?” He laid back down and rolled over.
I scowled. Didn’t he realize that nasty green worm had been just inches from my nose? That was worth a good yell, and then some. I reached over and plucked a fistful of tissues from the box beside the bed. Then, I poised my hand over the squirmy creature and took a deep breath. Icky little worm. I paused. It wasn’t a worm. And I knew it. It was a caterpillar. My instincts said to smush it, mush it, squish it into oblivion. But I didn’t. Instead, I wrinkled up my nose and carefully scooped it into the tissues. Next, I went downstairs and placed it gently on the deck railing outside.
For a moment, I watched as the caterpillar crawled to the back side of a post and disappeared. Then, I went back to bed.
“It would have been easier just to squash it,” Bryan murmured.
I sighed. “I know.”
“Nature lover.” I could hear the smile in his voice as he rustled deeper into the covers.
I checked my pillow one last time (no bugs!) then closed my eyes. Bryan’s words rang in my mind. But it wasn’t because I was a nature lover that I didn’t smush the caterpillar. It was because, as much as I didn’t like green, squirmy critters on my pillow, I did love butterflies. And I had faith that my beady-eyed intruder would soon turn into a beautiful butterfly. That’s why I scooped instead of squashing.
As I laid there, with sleep eluding me, I began to think about the wonder of transformation. A caterpillar, I realized, wasn’t the only yucky thing that had happened in my life. There were other things, like infertility, failures, difficult relationships, that I wanted to just squish and forget about. But perhaps, just perhaps, God could transform those too, just like the caterpillar. Maybe He could transform my pain, my experiences, into something useful in the lives of others, something beautiful in the Kingdom of God.
I glanced at my jewelry box on the dresser. Inside were three different cross necklaces and a gold pair of cross earrings. The cross – a perfection picture of how God transforms the ugly into the beautiful. I wouldn’t wear a hangman’s noose or a guillotine or a gilded electric chair. But I do wear crosses. Why? Because God has transformed the cross. It’s where death turned to life, where joy triumphed over sorrow, where my life was redeemed. The cross, once nothing more than an executioner’s tool, is now a symbol of God’s redeeming love. And if God could do that, and if he could turn a squirmy caterpillar into a gorgeous butterfly, then he could take the awful things in my life and transform them, too, for His glory.
Romans 8:28 (NIV) says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things are good that happen in my life, but that God can turn the hard things into good. He can make them into a shining testimony of His love and faithfulness.
But if they are going to be transformed, I need to take those difficult, sometimes painful experiences, and offer them to Him. I need to open my hand and let the caterpillar go free, believing in faith that one day soon it will be changed into a beautiful butterfly.