“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with us.”
I remember one late summer day as a child on the Geneseo farm we lived on, we walked out the door and the tall elm tree seemed to be covered with monarch butterflies. I have never seen that since so I don’t know if it was a child’s mind seeing it or that dramatic. But it leaves this imprint on me as I remember it. The butterfly has long been a symbol of our Christian faith with its obvious transformation from caterpillar into a butterfly and this amazing change is the result of certain dormant genes being turned on somehow. Sometimes I can’t help wondering if this was not God’s way of providing a graphic illustration of what happened to Christ and will happen to us. It is the caterpillar dying to the old way of life, entering the chrysalis tomb only to emerge to new life, spread our wings and fly. Science can catalog the changes, identify the mechanism of change, but the words and numbers fall short of describing the magnificence of that butterfly emerging from its tomb a new creation.
We get a taste of that in our spiritual lives, if we are blessed with transformative moments. Call them what you will, born again, born from above, new creation, words fall short. We simply cannot fully understand the transformation of a life. Perhaps some things are so very profound in meaning and implication that they can only be captured in art and poetry, words and image inter-twined. In Christ, God changes lives as though we were a radiant tapestry or inspiring song. When we embrace that, we emerge from our tomb-chrysalis to new life. All that is left is to unfold the wings, let them fan in the sun until we are ready to fly.
This piece was created in response to Pakistani friends in ministry. Their work cannot be overtly Christian, they cannot wear the traditional symbols of their faith: the cross. In the course of the conversation and the feedback of others, I began to sketch and paint butterflies based on photos I took at Butterfly World near West Palm Beach, Florida in 2004. Gradually this one won out and I finished it a few weeks ago now. It is done in oil and I am selling prints and canvas prints of this piece with 30% of each sale going to help the ministries of indigenous Christians in countries where they cannot be open with their faith. These ministries are about meeting basic food, water, clothing, disaster response and/or medical needs. Contact me about any interest you may have.