The Power in Abiding
A few months back I accompanied my twin daughters along with the rest of their third grade class on a field trip to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I had plans to explore and engage in hands on experiences, so when we were immediately ushered in to the auditorium to watch a 3D film about butterflies, I was less than thrilled. I didn’t expect what I was about to watch to have such a profound impact on me. My thoughts the rest of the day were tethered to the miraculous transformation that happens in the life cycle of the butterfly. One creature can completely transform into an altogether new being.
As I watched the caterpillar surrender to the process of transformation to become a butterfly, I wanted to find an easy parallel to the transformation possible in the human heart. But, I found that to be difficult. As complex and intricate as the caterpillar turned butterfly may be, we as humans are even more complex. Like with puberty, which happens in humans as we grow older, it’s not optional. We grow and change into more mature and sophisticated versions of ourselves. But, unlike the butterfly, we have not undergone a transformation to something altogether new.
The life cycle of the butterfly reveals a truth about what can happen in our spirit when we meet God and submit to His transforming power. Transformation is not just the next portion of the cycle in our lives, it is a process in which we choose to willingly surrender. Or we can choose to stay the same.
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have heard the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God- truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:21-24)
This passage in Ephesians speaks to the power of the Spirit to renew our thoughts and attitudes and invites us to put on our new nature. So how do we do this? First, we have to choose to throw off our old nature, and that can be difficult. We have the promise of transformation through Christ, it is a matter of whether or not we choose to grab hold of it and step into it. Transformation happens when we abide.
Abide: To wait. To remain stable or fixed in a state.
So this is where the life cycle of the butterfly reveals a truth that helped me to grab hold of the Biblical principle of abiding. The caterpillar creates a cocoon and enters into a closed in space where it is surrounded on all sides. It is in this hidden place that the transformation process occurs. So it is with us if we want to be transformed. The old parts have to die so that new things can live.
This is the picture of what it means to live in an upside down Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. For transformation to happen, we are invited to stop. No more working, striving, doing or achieving. It is about being, stopping, resting and waiting. That is what it means to abide. When we steep ourselves in the word of God and the presence of God, that is where we become a new creation.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” (James 4:8)
When I picture a cocoon, I picture the hands of God closed in tightly around me, holding me in and fully covering me. In this place of coming close to God, His character and kindness are revealed to me once again. I am not to live fractured and divided, and neither are you. We were made by God to display His glory to the world.
Once the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it possesses new parts and abilities that were not there before. It no longer only treads on the ground, but is now a creature of the sky. The butterfly is able to see and experience things that it was not even aware of before. This is a picture of the promise of God to us. He has new things to show us and a redeemed perspective for us to see.
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:7-8)
Will you accept the invitation from God to put off the old, to come in close and rest in Him?
God created you to be like Him. Abide in Him. Bear much fruit and bring Glory to your Father. This is what you were made to do.