COLUMN: Lent calls us to the path of transformation

If you ever want to see one of the miracles of everyday life, you need look no further than the transformation of a humble caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

The lowly worm spends its early days stuffing itself with food, with no thought to its future purpose. When it is time for transformation, though, the caterpillar shifts gears. It quits consuming — it sheds itself of this world and seeks solitude.

Once it has found a safe place, the caterpillar literally goes within itself. It wraps itself within a cocoon, and then dissolves itself into an amorphous soup that bears no resemblance to caterpillar or butterfly. Special clusters of cells, ordered from the time the soon-to-be butterfly was an egg, reorder the soup into the wings, antennae, body and organs of its new creation.

When it comes time to for the butterfly to emerge, it cannot be helped out of its cocoon. The struggle to push its way out of the cocoon finishes the formation of its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never fly. When the work is done, the butterfly emerges as something of a higher order, and infinitely more beautiful than it had been. What had once crawled at our feet, below our gaze, now soars, drawing our eyes upward.

This path to transformation is instructive for us as continue our spiritual journey through Lent. Like the caterpillar, we now face the time for transformation. It’s time to put aside the things of this world that stand between us and our higher purpose. Once we’ve set aside our sins, stripped ourselves of whatever is holding us back spiritually, we are prepared to go within, into the ultimate solitude.

Jesus sets the precedent for this period of introspection at the beginning of his ministry. Luke tells us in the fourth chapter of his Gospel that “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for 40 days he was tempted by the devil.”

God Incarnate in human form subjected himself to the privations of 40 days in the desert, to share in our human travails, to face our temptations and forgo the honors of this world to continue the journey that will end in pain and death, glory and resurrection. Lent calls us to follow Jesus into that desert, to set aside whatever is holding us back, to go within ourselves, to seek out the Holy Spirit and prepare for the trial and the glory to come.

The path ahead is one that demands introspection, surrender and change. That change may seem contrary to the promises of this world. But, if we allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide, and trust in the sustaining power of Christ’s living water, we will emerge on the other side, transformed in ways that will lift the gaze of creation.

Almighty God, as we continue your holy season of Lent, give us the strength and integrity to search ourselves for any sin that separates us from your full glory. Help us to set aside any habits that hinder our full acceptance of your perfect love. Give us the courage to follow Christ into our spiritual desert, to trust in the sustaining waters of your Spirit, and to surrender ourselves to the transformation that awaits us in your Kingdom. Amen.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com. He can be reached at jneal@enidnews.com.

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I am a retired Naval Officer and small business owner, outside of my work at the News & Eagle. My wife Tammy and I enjoy serving together at church and attending Gaslight and ESO. We have two daughters, three dogs and little free time.

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