Something went wrong.
We have had several cocoons in our butterfly habitat over the last couple of years. We start with caterpillars who ate, grew, and then built their cocoons as they moved toward their metamorphosis into Painted Lady butterflies. Most of the caterpillars did just what they were supposed to do, creating cocoons hanging on a piece of paper, which we then hung on the wall of the habitat. One cocoon fell, and rather than disturb it, we decided to leave it where it lay.
Most of the butterflies, emerging from still-hanging cocoons, stretched their wings, permitting the blood to flow so that they could eventually fly from the habitat when we released them. But when the “fallen” butterfly emerged from his (her?) cocoon, it didn’t act right; it had one wing that was deformed. Instead of flying like the other butterflies, he flapped frantically around the floor of the habitat, unable to take flight. Eventually he died, even after we put sugar water low enough for him to get it.
This got me wondering about what happened, so I have been researching cocoons and the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies, and I’ve learned some lessons about home, family, and parenting.
The cocoon’s purposes
First, the cocoon is a protective covering that permits the caterpillar to mature from its immature state to its mature state; within its walls, it can grow the way God designed it to grow. The caterpillar’s stem cells have all the information it needs to develop into a butterfly, but without the cocoon, the metamorphosis won’t take place. The caterpillar would simply stay immature, and would not fulfill its butterfly-destiny.
Second, the cocoon is a shelter that protects, in this most vulnerable time of its life, the caterpillar from external dangers, such as the predators that want to devour the caterpillar before it has a chance to grow into the mature butterfly God created it to be.
When it goes wrong
I learned that sometimes, the cocoon-metamorphosis process doesn’t work the way it’s designed to. Sometimes a semi-formed butterfly emerges from its cocoon too early. When this happens, its wings are often not fully developed, leaving the immature butterfly vulnerable to predators in the environment, and unable to fly, which is what it is designed to do.
Sometimes the cocoon gets damaged. When this happens several outcomes are possible. Sometimes the caterpillar dies in the cocoon. Sometimes an apparently-mature butterfly will emerge, but will be unable to fly due to unformed or deformed wings. Interestingly, there is evidence that some caterpillars contract their bodies when the cocoon is damaged, protecting themselves from the worst effects of the damage; these caterpillars can emerge from the cocoon fully formed and mature, in spite of the difficult and rocky metamorphosis process.
Lessons in Parenting
Now, re-read the last two sections, replacing ‘cocoon’ with ‘home,’ ‘caterpillar’ with ‘child,’ and ‘butterfly’ with ‘young adult.’
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
God designed your home, and put you and your children together for a specific set of purposes. Our homes are designed by Him to be a protective shelter from the world and its predators, and to be a safe environment in which we are engaged in the process of metamorphosing our children from immaturity into the mature Christian adults God created them to be (Deut 6; Eph 6:1-4).
If we release them too early, they simply will not have the understanding, wisdom, and godly character needed to walk in the world. Keep them in too long, and their development will be stifled and they will not learn to exercise their faith on their own.
Importantly, we are not alone in this process. The New Testament concept of transformation mainly involves two Greek words. When the word metaschēmatizō is used (Cor 3:18; Phil 3:17-21; 2 Cor 11:13-15; 1 Cor 4:6), it generally implies a transient state, moving from a starting point and headed toward some other point, but the emphasis is on the starting point. When the word metamorphoō is used (Matt 17:2; Mark 9:2;Rom 12:1-2), the emphasis is on movement toward the final end state, with the emphasis on what the transformed person will eventually be like, or on what they have become.
With both parts of the transformation, scripture usually implies that there is some external force actually doing the transformation. So it is with the process of parenting. In the same way that the Lord and the Holy Spirit transform us, we partner with Him in the transformation of our children, equipping them with the faith-tools they need to survive attacks from spiritual predators who would steal their faith from them.
Too many parents simply let others make critical decisions for them when it comes to raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But remember that Hebrews 13:17 gives an important instruction and warning to us: “Obey your leaders and be under their authority. They are watching you because they are responsible for your souls” (ICB). The implied instruction for children is to obey their parents, but parents: look at your role. You are responsible for their souls. This means the cocoon you build has eternal consequences for those you are responsible for raising.
Christian parents: Seek the Lord’s will for you and for your family. Ask Him to reveal to you opportunities for faith-strengthening conversations with your children. Ask Him for wisdom to deal with the challenges they face. Ask the Lord when HE wants you to begin releasing them from your cocoon. (Seriously: ask Him whether your 3, 4, 5, or 6 year old is old enough or mature enough to release to the world!) Ask Him when HE has grown their faith sufficiently to deal with some of the challenges the world gives them.
And no matter what, continue to disciple them with the plan and content HE gives you.