Walking through the streets of D.C. last night with friends, I stopped in front of a church to examine a cluster of paper butterflies strung along the side exterior. I found this extraordinary. There was something so beautiful and fitting about this image. Moving in the direction of the church spire, the butterflies were on a mission to heaven.
The irony of the moment did not escape me. Butterflies are notorious symbols of transformation. They start as eggs, transition to caterpillars, and then morph into cocoons. From that chrysalis state, they eventually emerge as butterflies. It is not an easy metamorphosis. To the outside eye, the cocoons look ugly. They look like nothing. They look dead. All color and life force drains temporarily from them.
The butterfly’s transition is one of nature’s miracles. It is a glaring reminder that profound change requires a stage of withdrawal and contraction, yet nothing in our society supports this truth. We’re supposed to get over pain quickly, immerse ourselves in external activities, and fake it ’til we make it. This completely contradicts the natural evolution process.
As I went through a painful period in my life this year, I became that chrysalis. Other than somehow finding the energy to work, I contracted. I rarely went out socially, I cried day after day for months, and spent considerable time alone except in the company of a few select friends who didn’t judge my process. Meanwhile the world screamed its bad advice, as I withdrew.
I spun my web blocking out the noise as best I could because the caterpillar undergoes transformation alone. She does not take a lover into the cocoon or host a dinner party in it.
It’s an arduous process breaking out of that lonely shell, but when you do burst out of the cocoon, you are no longer the same. You become a whole new being and yes, you fly in the direction of heaven, flying on the wings of faith. You dazzle the world with your bright colors because you are now beautiful, transformed, and free.