Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.The old has gone, the new is here!2 Corinthians 5:17
If you haven't spent a lot of time with a butterfly, you may have the impression that becoming one is a simple, automatic thing. Awkward little caterpillar is transformed, he pops out of his chrysalis and flies away on a happy little breeze surrounded by sunshine and flowers.
Not so much.
My 6-year-old son loves bugs. He found a crop of black swallowtail caterpillars on the parsley in the garden and brought them all inside to raise. I was all for raising 2 or 3, but he found 9, so we've been doing this for a while. The only thing you really have to do is give the caterpillars fresh parsley to munch on, provide a few sticks for them to crawl on ... and clean up poop.
Caterpillars poop. A LOT.
After cleaning up an inordinate amount of bug feces, we were finally rewarded with a tank full of sleeping caterpillars undergoing transformation. We kept them moist and watched. And waited. For days.
Isn't it just like God to create something like the butterfly? What person would come up with the idea of morphing a slowpoke crawly creature into a winged beauty that defies gravity and flies off into the sky? When you really think about it, the butterfly is a miracle. We can't recreate it. We can't hope to understand what happens while that caterpillar sleeps. God makes something completely new out of a totally different creature.
But is this change automatic? Does the caterpillar know he's different? From watching butterflies fall out of their chrysalis, I can tell you most assuredly they have no clue. They flop and fall and freak out as they drag slime everywhere. They panic and try to crawl like a caterpillar only to have the huge growths on their back keep them from getting anywhere. They fall off the stick over and over again until finally they decide it's better just to be still and they find a place to hang out. That's when things begin to change.
Why the science lesson? As I watched this little guy today, I couldn't help but think about us. When we humble ourselves before God and admit we need Jesus, that we're nothing on our own and we are in dire need of a transformation, things change. But it isn't an automatic, everything is happy and wonderful change. Usually, it's a fairly awkward and somewhat slow change. We aren't going to be everything God intends for us the moment our faith is born.
I think of it more like a line. We have a starting point, when our faith is new, and an ending point, when our faith is realized and we are home with Jesus in glory. All along this line between the two, we are changing. We're getting closer to that final result, but we're not ever "done" if we are still breathing.
All this to say, we're all works in progress. Judging other Christians or ourselves based on a standard of perfection will always reveal problems. The questions to ask are "Am I growing?" "Do I have more of a love for Jesus than I did a year ago or ten years ago?" "Has my maturity level in spiritual things gotten better, even if slowly, over time?"
God isn't finished with us yet, fellow flopping butterfly. Someday we will fly. Let's be open to him doing his work in us, and let's be loving as we help others around us who may have just fallen out of the chrysalis.
Let's be all about the process of becoming new creations, because some happy day, we will be finished.