As you can tell by the name of this site, butterflies are kind of a big deal to me. To me they represent ‘the new creation’ we become in Christ. But there is so much more to them. I believe that God made all things to reveal His glory. A leaf, snowflakes, rocks, and even butterflies can reveal new depths and understanding of His Holy Word.
A few years ago I came across a show on PBS about the butterflies, specifically the Monarch butterfly, so naturally I had to watch it. As I learned of the hardships and struggles of the Monarch I also found parallels to the believer. This is my record of the parallels as I see them.
For the purpose of this comparison, I will be focused on the Monarchs that hibernate in Mexico as the movie does.
Every year the Monarchs hibernate. In all the world there are only 12 specific locations they hibernate in. These locations are all south-west facing slopes where the forest and trees act as a micro climate that protects them. This can possibly be likened to the 12 tribes of Israel.
The ‘first generation’ of Monarchs are born after the hibernation, usually in Texas. The hibernating Monarchs mate with the female laying 300-400 eggs. These parents then die leaving their offspring to migrate north in the U.S.A. and Canada. This process goes on for 3 more generations, each with a lifespan of only about a month. This reminds me that often times we are called to plant seeds that we may not get to see come to fruition but, just like Abraham, we can be sure that God is faithful to fulfill His promises.
The journey north is dangerous. Monarchs lay their eggs on and eat milkweed plants. Farmers do not like milkweed and try to destroy these plants, many do so by using chemical weed killers. The world does not like believers. Our presence cause many to see the sin in their own lives and so measures, even extreme measures, are taken to remove us from influence. How much of the church’s “food” today is chemically modified or even destroyed? The Word of God has been twisted into a ‘Me’ focused self help book with a sugar daddy for a god. Places to eat healthy spiritual meat and plant good seed are being destroyed.
The fourth generation lives for nine months. No one understands why or what starts the process, but this generation begins the 2000 mile migration to Mexico that takes about 2 months to complete. They will hibernate and in spring fly north where they will mate to create a new first generation. Four is also important as the caterpillar grows and sheds their skin four times. At the fifth shedding, they enter the chrysalis to emerge a butterfly.
The fourth generation is noted a few times in the Bible. In my mind the most notable is in Genesis 15:12-16 God shows Abram that His people would be servants for 400 years because the “iniquity of the Amorites” was not yet complete. At that time, God will bring His judgement on that nation and this fourth generation of His people would come out with great possessions. This would occur in the Exodus from Egypt and just before the 40 years of wandering in the desert. How like this are we today? God will tolerate sin in those over authority over us for a time in order to give a chance for repentance. Then he will remove us, His children, out from under that bondage. Then we complain about it, try to go back into bondage, and end up in the wilderness.
Butterflies are not considered by scientist to have an ideal body for migrating. They use about 20% of their energy just flapping their delicate nearly 4 inch wingspan. To compensate, Monarchs soar. As the air heats up, they rise and ride thermal currents. The Monarchs that are departing Canada often must fly over the Great Lakes. Between the wind, no place to land, and no food to eat, this is a particularly dangerous span they must gap. Many will search out boats to land on, only traveling when the winds are just right. Many Monarchs never make it to hibernation. There are a plethora of dangers for the butterfly including animals, chemicals, lack of safe resting places, and lack of food. Even the average driver is a possible threat. This reminds me that we are not capable of fulfilling our callings on our own. The enemy lurks waiting for a chance to prevent us from reaching our destiny in Christ. We need to be empowered by His Holy Spirit that dwells within us and utilize the resources He provides.
Interestingly, if a butterfly is relocated it will first act like it is on the same course but will correct itself within a few days. Those that are truly God’s may get off path at times, but will eventually find their way back.
Once in Mexico the ordeal is far from over. Up to 80% of butterflies die in hibernation. Deforestation by local loggers are destroying the hibernation habitat drastically. But this reason is far more complicated. Locals are trying to provide for their families and they believe this is the only way they can. They have even been known to kill those who would try to stop them. There are many social and political comments that can be made about this, however that is not my focus here. Instead I want to point out that while many believers are “hibernating”, there are those coming in and crushing us underfoot, destroying our homes and our refuge places. This has always been, but today it has escalated to the point that the Monarch may become an endangered species – and I don’t want to see that to be a reflection of the true Church.
Those that survive hibernation will awaken and begin the cycle again. My question for the church is this….What can you do help the human monarchs fulfill their calling?