The caterpillar to butterfly transformation is a frequently used analogy to describe the conversion/transformation aspect of the Christian faith. Writers and speakers like to use this imagery to spark our imaginations and inspire us as we think about what it means to have new life in Jesus Christ. This imagery speaks of a transition that is one of totality.
In a recent conversation based on writing by D. Gelpi and ML Branson (italics added after initial post) on the “initial” and “ongoing” aspects of conversion, a friend described several different kinds of conversions that he had witnessed in people: affective (the emotions, emotional health, etc), intellectual, moral, socio-political (the move toward corporate ethical solidarity), Christian (responding to God on God’s terms), and church (moving from individualistic and fragmented practices to interdependence in a congregation). He reflected on how these conversions can take place at different times and how there is really no prescribed order for them to occur. For some it was a Christian conversion that prompted a moral conversion. For others it was a moral conversion that prompted a Christian conversion.
I found myself challenged by this notion that we can bring parts of us ‘to the other side’ of our Christian conversion as if our good morality or strong intellect could be brought over unchanged when we made the choice to follow Christ. Is it really possible to say that parts of our lives were Christocentric before Christ was at the center? Perhaps in our churches we have a bunch of Butterpillars and Caterflies running around.
C.S. Lewis writes:
“The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down…. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'”