As a child growing up in the country, I often ran across various caterpillars creeping among the plants that grew up along the borders of our our farm. Fuzzy, multi-colored, or freakishly bizarre, they all fascinated me. And if I was feeling especially intrigued, I would gather them up with a handful of the weed they were occupying and drop them into an ice cream bucket for further, long-term study.
While other kids got excited about watching them work themselves into a cocoon and emerge a butterfly or moth, that wasn’t where my main interest came from. Don’t get me wrong, that definitely was an amazing mystery of life to watch unfold, but there was another question I was trying to answer by examining the creatures in my buckets.
Why don’t they all come out the other side changed? And more specifically, why do some that enter the bucket never change at all?
You see, in the simple mind of a child there were only a few paths that the caterpillar could follow once placed in the bucket:
- Eat, weave a cocoon, emerge a butterfly/moth, and fly away.
- Eat, weave a cocoon, emerge a butterfly/moth, but die before ever flying.
- Eat, weave a cocoon, but die within the cocoon, never to emerge.
- Curl up and die.
And the question that was eating at me then… that eats at me still… is what determined which path the caterpillar would ultimately complete?
To me they all looked the same, were given the same chance at survival, and kept in the same environment. What made one emerge changed and beautiful while another curled up to die at the bottom of the container.
The same phenomenon happens with each of us when we’re presented with changes in our lives. Some of us embrace it, preparing for the change ahead and settle into the remolding process, hoping to come out the other side better than we entered. Others start the process, but give up before we can see the fruit of our efforts. But the ones that pain me the most are those who give up before they even begin.
Chances are you are either coming out of a cocoon period in your life, or you may be facing the near-term prospect of one. Which path will you choose? What will you learn along the way?
Have you seen some of my reflections on my most recent cocoon? You can find them here.
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