Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Caterpillars Grow and Grow and Grow and Grow

Butterfly caterpillars grow and grow and grow.

Viceroy butterfly larvae / caterpillars of varying sizes or instars

These caterpillars grow about 2,800 times the weight they were when they hatched.

Cloudless Sulphur butterfly larvae / caterpillars of varying sizes or instars

If they don't eat enough, they'll not grow as large. The photo below shows two chrysalises; one ate plenty and grew large. The other one didn't eat enough and didn't grow as large. Both emerged as beautiful adult Monarch butterflies. (Note: the word 'cocoon' isn't the proper term for a butterfly pupa).

monarch butterfly chrysalises / pupae / cocoons large and small

Several things can keep a butterfly or moth caterpillar from growing to it's full potential:
1. Not enough food available (early frost, too many caterpillars, too early in spring for the food to grow fast enough to keep up with the demand)
2. Temperatures too cold (late fall and early spring) for the caterpillars to be active and eat well
3. Disease; sick caterpillars often lose their appetites
4. Too crowded; too many caterpillars on the same plant and they keep bumping each other or even purposely knocking each other off their plant
5. Plant losing it's nutrition (plant pests draining leaves of nutrition, drought)
6. Plant tasting wrong (spray on the leaves that change the taste, plant pests leaving a large amount of excrement on which sooty mold grows, strong fertilizers or other nutrients/chemicals drawn up by the roots into the leaves)
7. An older caterpillar becoming 'lost' and cannot find the host plant again to continue eating
8. And many other reasons!

It's sad to see a small version of a butterfly that we know is much smaller than normal. We know that something happened to cause it to be so much smaller than normal.

It will be mature; just much smaller than it's potential mature size.

But it's great to see that it did live to become an adult, even if it has not reached its full potential! If it doesn't have enough nutrition, it will starve to death and cannot become an adult. Sometimes it will become a chrysalis but doesn't have enough strength / life to finish developing to become an adult; an additional week or more as a chrysalis.

Quite often I look at myself and see that I am much 'smaller' or less mature than I should be. At 53, as a Christian for my entire life, I should have matured far beyond what I have to date. As a 53 year old 'newborn' Christian, I wouldn't expect so much out of myself - but as I said, I'm not a 'newborn' Christian. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home where God was first - PERIOD.

Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. So are the eight other attributes that I don't like to look at too close. Sigh. It takes a long time for this fruit to grow in me! Some parts of this fruit are more more developed than others.

I think about love and my first reaction is, 'Sure, I have love'. Then I remember that Jesus said that we are to love our enemies. Well, maybe I really don't have love in the sense Jesus used the term. It's easy to love those who love me. 'Full-grown' love is one that loves enemies as well as friends and loved ones. The love Jesus talks about is an action, not a feeling. We can't command our feelings but we can command our actions.

Joy; yes-sir-ree, I have joy! Then things go 'wrong' and I lose that 'joy'. But then I realize that I often mix up joy and happiness and yes, I do lose my happiness but I always have had the joy that God puts inside me. Hopefully, I'll never be tested with really rough times and have my fruit of joy tested.

Peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness ... each one of these parts of the fruit of the Spirit needs to grow to its full potential within me.

How do I grow this fruit to the right 'size'? As I think about it, I realize that this fruit grows the same way as a caterpillar grows, but feeding on the right food. If the Spirit of God is within me, my spirit grows and the fruit will grow.

I can be less than the potential God intends me to be; it's up to me. I can feed on the Word of God and by spending time talking to God, thanking God, asking God to grow me. Or I can ALL spend my time doing other things without taking time for God.

So what is my excuse:
1. Not enough food available? There is plenty for me to feed upon. I can't claim this excuse.
2. Conditions not suitable for me to be active and eat well? No, once again, conditions are perfect - I'm not always as active and feeding on the right things out of my laziness. Not an excuse.
3. Disease; hmmm - could I be allowing myself to become 'diseased' by allowing things to grow in me that shouldn't? Things like worry, lack of faith that God is in control, or other 'diseases'? Not an excuse.
4. Too crowded; no - I have plenty of time alone to read and study God's word and to talk with God in prayer. Not an excuse.
5. Plant losing it's nutrition; absolutely not. God's word does not change. Nothing can alter it's 'nutrition'. Not an excuse.
6. Plant tasting wrong; well, my attitude can cause problems with the taste but the taste of God's word is always good. But if I've become immersed in myself and don't want to listen to God's word because it will reveal my faults (as it should) then yes, it will taste 'wrong' because of my taste buds, not because of the 'taste' of God's word. Not an excuse.
7. Becoming 'lost' and cannot find food; God's word in this country is always nearby. God is always with me. I can choose to walk away but God will never leave me. Not an excuse.
8. And many other reasons - but none of them can I claim as an excuse for myself to not have enough to eat and grow as I should.

Even if I do not fully 'mature' or 'grow', I am still a child of God, like a smaller than normal adult butterfly is still an adult butterfly. But I am robbing myself and others if I don't feed properly to fully grow and mature.

It's past time for me to start 'eating' heartily in the spiritual sense. I thank God that there is always enough spiritual nutrition at hand for me to grow and produce fully 'grown' and mature fruit of the Spirit.

Galations 5: 22, 23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control;

Matthew 5: 43 -
Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you;

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