Several years ago, during a time of a particularly hard transition in my life, my husband and I went to see an IMAX movie about bugs – not the Disney movie, but about actual insects. (Stay with me here!) The movie traced the life of Papilio, a caterpillar who emerges into a butterfly. Incredible imagery, beautiful scenery. Yet, what stood out to me from this movie was a line the narrator says about how once the chrysalis has formed, the caterpillar will disintegrate into a milky liquid substance, to be reformed as a butterfly.
I’m not sure how I got to be an adult without actually knowing what happens inside a chrysalis, but I did. I guess I always assumed that the caterpillar changed a little, grew some legs and wings. Honestly, I’m not sure what I thought. But, I never thought about it becoming mush.
So, thanks to google, I discovered some things. I won’t bore you with them all, you can google for yourself, but what I did learn is that most of the caterpillar’s tissue is destroyed. Most, but not all. There are some special formative cells left, which have played no part in the insect’s larval life and have remained hidden and protected. Each of these groups of cells is called an “imaginal bud” (official scientific name is “histoblast”).
I LOVE the name “imaginal bud” – it sparks for me imagination, creativity, something amazing growing from something small, something new emerging from something that had always been there. It is something that has been a part of the caterpillar/butterfly’s DNA all along, yet it finally gets to do its job.
The metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly has always been imagery I connect with, especially during times of change and, in many ways, this new knowledge gave it even deeper meaning. The butterfly has been a Christian symbol of death/resurrection for centuries as well.
While I most definitely do not believe our church has been through a time of death to resurrection, I DO believe we have been in a time of change that we have not known for quite some time. Coming out of a pandemic, new pastoral leadership change, a strategic/discernment plan that was ready to be rolled out to the congregation just as COVID hit, not to mention changes in each of our own lives and families.
And sometimes, it may feel like we are in the midst of the primordial ooze within that chrysalis. HOWEVER, the imaginal buds are still present, those things within our DNA that make this church who it is – caring for and serving our neighbors and one another, growing in our discipleship, generosity, incredible traditional worship, to name a few – are still there. More importantly, the God who created it all remains with us in the midst of change, whether we are a hungry little caterpillar, an oozy mess, or a beautiful butterfly!
And I wonder – and truly get excited about – what the “imaginal buds” of this congregation will grow into in the coming months and years ahead!