By Judy McIntyre
The Monarch butterfly is a special part of God’s creation. It is a crawling, flying story of new birth. The scientific name for what happens in this butterfly’s life cycle is metamorphosis. Meta means BIG! And to morph means to change into something else completely different. When the Lord sends Monarchs into your yard and into your life, can you guess what BIG change God might be trying to remind you of? With Christ in you, you are a new creation! Born again! The Monarch butterfly is a visual reminder of the transformation that occurs in all of us when we accept Christ into our lives. How big a change does a butterfly go through? Well, what starts as a tiny egg changes to a caterpillar and then to a winged insect, but let’s compare the caterpillar and the changes it undergoes just to see how BIG a change this is.
The caterpillar has 8 stumpy pro legs—kind of with suction cups on the bottom, BUT the Monarch butterfly has 6 legs that are hinged, and they can taste with their feet! (God, thank you that I don’t taste with my feet!) Now that is a difference!
The caterpillar has a mouth for chewing and chomping the leaves on a milkweed plant, the only plant on which a female Monarch butterfly will lay her eggs . The mouth of the caterpillar opens and closes like an elevator door as it truly earns the name “The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar.” I have seen a 2 foot tall milkweed plant reduced to 5” stems in a matter of days by the caterpillars! Well, what about the mouth of the butterfly? It is nothing like the mouth of the caterpillar. A butterfly could not bite you if it wanted. It only has a straw which is wound up in a tight circle like a “well put away” garden hose. The butterfly uses his straw, proboscis, to sip nectar from flowers like zinnias or pentas or lantanas. He even likes to sip the nectar from milkweed flowers!
Now let’s compare the eyes. The caterpillar has simple eyes which means it sees one image of everything it sees. Humans have simple eyes, too. BUT the Monarch butterfly has compound eyes which means it sees multiple images of everything. Its compound eyes are large and have multiple lenses which it can use to see ahead, behind, above, and below and on the side—all at the same time! I have no idea how any creature can navigate with multiple images, but the butterfly manages just fine. Big difference!
The caterpillar has an endoskeleton, just like a human. His skeleton is inside his body. BUT the Monarch butterfly has an external skeleton. The soft tissue of butterflies is encased in a hard shell called an exoskeleton.
The caterpillar, when it has eaten enough milkweed, will hang from a limb in a J shape, start swinging violently back and forth, and all of a sudden its outer skin (which is beautifully striped in lime green, yellow, black and white) begins to tear and the chrysalis pops out from under the shedding skin. The chrysalis is a wonder. It is lime green with metallic gold decorations on it. Now how did that happen? In that chrysalis, there is not a caterpillar – only green slimy liquid! From that liquid over a matter of time, begins to form the butterfly. As the butterfly forms, the lime green chrysalis loses its color and becomes transparent. You can see the Monarch inside the chrysalis as time comes for it to emerge. Again the chrysalis swings wildly back and forth and the butterfly emerges, a wrinkled mess. If you want to see this magical metamorphosis, plant three or four milkweed plants in a sunny spot in your yard. The Monarchs migrate through Natchitoches in early spring and again in early fall. Some even stay with us for the summer.
DO THE CATERPILLAR AND THE BUTTERFLY HAVE ANYTHING IN COMMON…NOPE! Now you know why the scientists say this is truly a Metamorphosis (Big change)! Is this what God wants us to experience when we become new creatures in Christ? Yes, it is. Easter is behind us, but the story of Easter will be all around us this spring and summer, every time we see a Monarch. The Monarch can remind us that we are new creatures in Christ, nothing like we were before our sins were forgiven. We are beautiful, wonderful, talented, TRANSFORMED creatures—Just like the Monarchs!
I HAVE LEARNED A LOT FROM CATERPILLARS AND BUTTERFLIES!