From Lumbering Along to Transformation to Freedom; A New Way At Looking At Church

A friend of mine once told me that he had had a dream/vision of me inside a cage. What was odd about it was that the cage door was wide open, and I opted not to leave it.

A caterpillar, although fun to watch with its multiple legs navigating a twig, never gets far fast nor far off the ground.  It can also be destructive; a caterpillar infestation can kill an entire tree if the caterpillars eat off all the leaves. After all that eating, they spin a protective cocoon that appears to be dormant in spite of the radical transformation of life going on inside it.  Only after that transformation is complete will it break out of its cocoon in a new, transformed identity, a butterfly.  After drying its wings, it springs forth to fly, forever abandoning its old house of safety and its old identity.

My cocoon has been the Church.  It provides transformation from an old life to a new, from an old identity to a new one, from an old form to a completely new one, all in the safety of a secure place.  My B.C. life, “before Christ”, “before cocoon”, followed that of a lumbering caterpillar close to the ground, eating all for my self-satisfaction. When accepting Jesus, I joined church that supplied a safe atmosphere for spiritual growth and nurturing. I admit that I have had doubts if I really want to spout wings and fly.

A pre-natal baby has it made: its own built in spa complete with hot bath, manicure service with nail growth, comforting music of the steady heartbeat of a mother, all the nourishment needed, and constant naps with no work schedule hanging over one’s head. 

Labor pain announces the upcoming birth followed by pressure, pushing.  What a shock when one’s head pops out of one’s cocoon, or one’s mother’s womb.  Humans are greeted with a smack of pain on their buttocks to make them cry in an effort to clean out their lungs.  We call this “birth”.

I wonder what it is like to go from a caterpillar through reconstruction into an image of a butterfly or moth?  It must be a shock too to discover a completely different formation and identity, which isn’t complete until you “fly”.

There is a direct correlation between “birthing” and “flying”; its called “freedom”. A newborn is “cut” from his mother, literally, and spends the rest of their transformational life as a child distancing herself/himself from mother to become an independent adult. A butterfly is “cut” from its cocoon, from its old identity as a caterpillar, spreads and dries its wings in an effort to fly, distancing itself from its past.  It is called “freedom”.

Unfortunately my flesh cries out that I do not want “freedom” from my church, my cocoon.  I want to stay wrapped up in it, seeing no need to fly. I tell myself that I just want to “do” church and “be” the church which I see having no need to fly, particularly from its safe confines.  Holding on, I am not free!  Freedom is “releasing”, being released from your mother, released from your cocoon, released from your church.

One of the problems of being a “church kid” is never being released, nor wanting to be released, opting for safety over flight, which is prohibiting me from what God actually created me to be: “free”!  When choosing to fly, I can glide on the winds of the Holy Spirit, feeling free of the confinements of structure and past life. Being “free” in the spirit is a different way of doing “church” than when all I did was “attend” church.

I sense the Church is in a cocoon period of its history, being transformed into a different image, from a lumbering caterpillar of an institution to the free flowing and soaring of the Holy Spirit as a butterfly.  In order to fulfill its transformation, it must now fly. 

I see before the cocoon a church built on structure; after the cocoon a church built on relationships with little if any structure, more free flowing.  We, the Church, now find itself in a cocoon stage of transformation, new mindsets, new wineskins, a total transformation and redevelopment of “body” ministry, from an old caterpillar model that has labored the church as a structure to a new butterfly form of freedom of flow through relationships.  Just as the caterpillar and butterfly were the same living organism that went through dramatic change of identity and form, so the Church past and present are the same living spiritual organism that is going through dramatic change of identity, form, and body ministry.

When this transforming is complete the Church will not look the same, but it is the same Church.  It will have a new image, a new identity, a new freedom in the Spirit that it has not experienced in the past.  The tough part is the choice left before us:  stay dormant in the security of our cocoon, those safe church structures, staying in our cage with an open door, or crawling or jumping out and spreading our wings and fly.