Metamorphosis: Lessons from the Butterfly

butterfly

A package for me arrives in the school office, and as the children and I pass through on our way to the lunch room, I quickly stop and check the return address. I smile as I announce to the children, “It’s from the butterfly farm!” Squeals of excitement erupt through the line up, and they can hardly wait to finish their lunch so we can unpack the special delivery.

Tiny larvae wriggle in the transparent container as I pull it from the box, with the children’s expectant eyes all fixated on the box’s contents.

The questions begin:

What are they eating?

How come they’re so small?

How many are there?

How long will it take ‘til we have butterflies?

These little squirming critters don’t look very impressive.

“Gross!” exclaims one girl, and internally I agree! Wriggling around atop their food they are a little reminiscent of maggots.

“…how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!”[1]

“Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”[2]

We place the containers in an empty fish tank in a prominent place in our classroom, ready to watch them eat and grow. Each day the children check on them to see if they are getting bigger. “Eat, guys, eat!” they urge.

By the end of the week they are ready to be moved into their own individual containers, an operation which has to be performed by me. Squeamishly I fish them out with a paintbrush and gently drop each one into it’s own small home with a lump of food: wheat germ and soy. Now they eat, writhe, and rapidly grow – but one of them doesn’t get any bigger and its food is left uneaten.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”[3]

The children are fascinated by these creatures’ acrobatics! The maturing caterpillars climb all over their containers and even hang upside down. Their skin changes color and they develop little spikes all over their bodies, like a suit of armor.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”[4]

Ten days go by, and finally one of them takes action and begins to form a chrysalis. It’s a beautiful golden tomb of sorts. There’s no turning back now. Never again will they be caterpillars.

“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”[5]

The chrysalis formation is mysterious. “How do they know how to do that?” the children ask. There’s no explanation, other than that God made them to do that!

I pin the little golden pea-pod shaped cases to some netting that I fasten atop the glass tank. They hang silently in rows, glistening slightly. I ask the children to imagine what is happening inside, but from the outside it’s hard to tell that anything is going on in there at all.

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”[6]

One caterpillar doesn’t form a chrysalis. It just keeps eating. Eventually, it stops moving, but nothing seems to be happening in there.

“Is it dead?” the children ask.

“Maybe,” I reply.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”[7]

A few days of waiting, and then one morning a new creature inhabits the tank! It flaps it’s wings and sports fancy antenna, a long skinny curly tongue, and delicate legs.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”[8]

We watch the others emerge, one by one. They burst forth from the chrysalises, and hang upside down for a time, pumping meconium through their wings. They are undeniably beautiful.

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”[9]

We make them a little garden in the tank with some natural objects (or as one student commented, “You made them a jungle gym!) We give them flowers and fruit. The children are delighted as they watch the insects flutter about, taste the sweet food, and climb over the flowers.

On Monday, we will walk the tank to the park and release them into the wild. They will not live long. The hope is that they will go and lay their eggs before their short lives come to an end.

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you… So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”[10]

[1] Job 25:6

[2] Isa. 41:14

[3] 1 Pet. 2:2-3

[4] Eph. 6:13

[5] 1 Cor. 15:36

[6] John 11:39-40

[7] John 12:24-25

[8] 2 Cor. 5:17

[9] 1 Cor. 15:42-44

[10] 2 Cor. 4:11-12, 16-18

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The Self-Regulation Trojan Horse

trojan horse

by Tina Olesen

The latest all-purpose solution being celebrated by the experts in educational circles these days is self-regulation. Self-regulation doesn’t mean that a child learns to control his impulses; it means he learns to control his stress. The Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative [i] proposes the theory that children misbehave because they are stressed out, and recommends teaching children how to self-regulate their stress levels so they will be calm and alert. Self-regulation is presented to teachers as something that will help students, but hidden within the belly of this Trojan horse are occult spiritual techniques. Friends, don’t trust this horse… beware of experts, even those bearing gifts

The self-regulation Trojan horse rolls up to the gate of the school, looking impressive. It speaks its first instructions: “Reduce the clutter in classrooms!” (This sounds alright, but you question it. We all know that a messy classroom is uncomfortable, but would that give a student an excuse to smack his classmate?)

The self-regulation horse then opens its mouth with its next demand: “Allow the children to use self-soothers in class, like stretchy bands or squishy toys.” (Hmmm, you wonder as you inspect one of the attractive toys, wouldn’t those be a distraction?)

Finally the horse booms its last directive: “Use mindfulness meditation and yoga to help kids reduce their stress.” Jumping suddenly out of the belly of this self-regulation Trojan horse are the occult invaders of mindfulness and yoga!

That word occult might conjure up images of wizards or Ouija boards, but it also has a broader meaning. Occult knowledge refers to that which is secret or hidden, revealed only to the specially initiated. Those involved in occult practices manipulate and bypass their minds to enter an altered state of consciousness, in order to perceive the one-ness of everything, or universal divinity. The joining of the opposites is the essence of occult philosophy. Eventually all distinctions are erased – the lines between good and evil, right and wrong, male and female, creature and Creator. Practices such as meditation and yoga fit into this description of occult, but they are now being re-packaged as secular self-regulation techniques.

Famous psychologist Carl Jung pioneered the re-branding of occult spirituality as “scientific” psychology. Jung himself was heavily involved with occult practices such as alchemy, astrology, Tarot card reading, Ouija boards and séances, and even acquired a spirit guide.[ii] Jung saw Hindu yoga as a means by which people could release themselves from the bondage of opposites. In the same vein as Jung, some psychologists have started experimenting with occult religious practices. Although they market them to children as a way to reduce stress, these occult practices pose a threat to the child’s innate moral conscience and carry the risk of spiritual dangers.[iii]

“But,” the self-regulation Trojan horse objects, “What will you do about the child’s stress?” Children do have a lot to be stressed about these days. When a society turns its back on God and His law, you’d better believe there is going to be moral decay and family breakdown, and that has a harmful impact on children. For example, if a child’s father has a drug habit, you bet that’s going to be stressful for her. Her stress makes a lot of sense in response to her dad’s sin (rebellion against God). But it’s not the child’s stress that’s the problem; it’s the sin that is causing the stress. The child ought to be heard in the truth of her sad and scary situation, and affirmed in the validity of her morally sane response to it. The last thing she should be taught is to go take care of her stress by meditating it away.

What should we do about children’s misbehaviour, then? We ought to teach them self-control, not self-regulation. Self-control means the child learns to restrain her impulses in obedience to God and out of consideration for others. You can acknowledge the wrong that has been done to a child while still holding her morally accountable for controlling herself. You can teach her the truth that someone else’s sin, however wrong and however hurtful, is not an excuse for her to sin.

Self-regulation is seductive because it does not involve the hard work of teaching the child self-control. What’s faster and easier, giving a child a squeeze toy, or training him to be able to sit still without it? A child who is permitted to squeeze away to his heart’s content is being trained in the art of self-gratification. He is being taught that he always has to feel good in order to be able to behave himself. While he might look as if he’s behaving himself, he’s not learning to delay gratification; he’s learning that he must be gratified at all times. This will have a devastating impact on his moral character development.

Children need a safe place to express their fears about their heartbreaking situations, and a trustworthy adult ought to affirm the right moral response of their conscience to sin. They need to be safeguarded from being seduced into the lie of occult practices like mindfulness and yoga. They need to be told the truth: that sin causes suffering, and that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Friends, leave that self-regulation Trojan horse outside the gate.

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[ii] For information about Carl Jung and the occult, click here

[iii] For more on mindfulness, read my guest blog post at Scientific American Mind – click here

To read about the spirituality behind yoga, read this post here or this article here