On a cool, breezy September day, I ventured out with a friend to fly kites at Stinson Beach, which is on the northern coast of California, U.S.A., just north of San Francisco. While we began to fly our kites skyward, our eyes were drawn to the adjacent cypress trees. As it turned out, we had timed our visit with the arrival of the monarch butterflies. Flying high, the butterflies flutter gaily in the air where they land and cling to the cypress trees by the thousands for approximately seven months, where they are free from anxiety, sorrow, and care.
The North American monarch butterfly is the only insect known to make an annual, long-distance migration. The monarchs are famous for their southward migration, from the northern United States and southern Canada to Mexico and coastal California, and their northward return in spring, which occurs over the lifespan of three to four generations. With a wingspan of about 4 inches, they can fly as fast as 30 miles (48 kilometres) per hour.
An unexplained phenomenon is that the fourth generation flies all the way south and winters over in the same trees as their great-grandparents the year before! No one can explain how the fourth generation knows how to get back to where the first generation wintered, or why the first three generations die so quickly and the fourth flies south and lives all winter. It's God's creation at work!
It is easy to understand why so many traditions and cultures across the world embrace the butterfly as a symbol of extreme transformation and change from something earthly and material into something spiritual and free. Just as butterflies undergo complete transformation through different life stages from egg to caterpillar to butterfly, the Christian goes through different spiritual life stages:
- New Birth – Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3 NIV)
- Childhood – Desire God's pure word as newborn babies desire milk. Then you will grow in your salvation. (1 Peter 2:2 GWT)
- Adult – Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14 NASB)
Consider this: Just as a child needs bodily health in order to move from infancy to adulthood, a Christian needs spiritual health in order to move from an infant faith to a mature Christian character. Is there anything that we can do to spur ourselves on to greater maturity? Is there anything that we can do to help others in the body of Christ to become more mature? Yes!
We can cling to Christ for guidance and direction just as the monarchs cling to the cypress trees. Then, we can study the Scriptures as individuals and in groups "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13 NIV)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your transforming power. Thank You for the promise that we will attain maturity as we read and study Your Word. As we grow in the knowledge of Your Son, Jesus Christ, may we also assist others in their quest for spiritual maturity. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.