What God Sees: Empty Shell or Beautiful Butterfly?

What God Sees: Empty Shell or Beautiful Butterfly?

I had to make a quick trip to Austin for work last week, and since it was last-minute and within driving distance, I decided to skip the flight and hit the road. Within the first hour and a half, I saw the first of a number of things that would not only catch my attention but begin one of two patterns that would continue throughout my eight hour drive (and, yes, that is driving distance in Texas!)

I noticed a large manufacturing plant that had shut down a few years back. It was now just an empty shell of a place. A number of buildings, both small and large, once bustling with people and movement, now sitting silent and motionless.

“What a shame,” I thought to myself. A waste of resources, space, and material. Who knows what will become of that place? It’s especially a shame because of the hundreds of men and women who struggled to find jobs after it had abruptly closed its doors, a number of whom I have met.

One man, Martin (name changed), told me how he had worked there since his teenage years (he was now well into his 60’s), didn’t have any degree or certification and wasn’t sure what he would do or even how he would pay his bills. The local Workforce organization was offering assistance to a lot of these individuals, including paying for education programs, and Martin was supposed to begin one of those in Amarillo, but he never started.

Driving by, I wondered what had happened to him.

As I continued my long drive, I saw a number of houses and buildings that had been abandoned over the years. Gaping holes where windows and curtains used to fill. Overgrown grass and weeds jutted through loose boards and cracked brick.

One town had even re-purposed a building and put up a sign on it welcoming people to their town.

But how do you resurrect something that’s dead and gone? Lifeless? Worthless?

And that’s when it hit me. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Because I want to share with you the other pattern that I began to notice.

I had been listening to a couple of podcasts as I was driving, and after turning them off, I just began to pray, “God, show me what you want me to see today.”

I started to notice butterflies. Lots of butterflies. I’ve driven a lot in my lifetime, and I have to say that I can’t remember a time when I’ve noticed more.

Most of them were flying right in front of my car (and no, no butterflies were harmed in the making of this post).

My daughter loves butterflies and so I thought of her and knew that she would love seeing all of them.

After a couple of hours, both the abandoned buildings and the number of butterflies stood out, so I knew God was trying to tell me something, but I just didn’t make the connection right away.

What could empty houses and abandoned buildings have to do with butterflies? You might already see the connection. I didn’t at first.

I thought about transformation, about metamorphosis. How a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, emerges from its cocoon and flies away. Only to leave what?

An empty shell!

That was the connection. The cocoon. What happens to it once the butterfly leaves?

It’s empty. Hollow. Lifeless.

What once held life is now motionless and silent. Abandoned.

That’s when God began making the connections.

When we put our faith and trust in Jesus, we become a new creation. We’re the butterfly. At least that’s how God sees us in Christ.

Yet, so often, we still see ourselves as the empty shell. Ugly. Worthless. Barren.

Only those are not God’s thoughts toward us.

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2)

What we’re seeing when we look at the empty shell is what Scripture refers to as the Old Man.

What the devil tells us is that is who we still are. God sees so much more.

He sees a new creation because we ARE a new creation. The old is gone. It was crucified with Jesus.

So then why do I still struggle with…







Poor self-image?

Imagine a butterfly once emerging from the cocoon trying to re-enter it and live there. You would think the butterfly were a bit off.

That’s exactly what we do, though, in our Christian walk. We receive this new life in Christ only to try and live it out in the empty shell.

The other thing we do is to try and “earn” being a butterfly. It would be like this same butterfly going to sleep in the cocoon every night praying that he would become a butterfly the next day.

Of course, that illustration is ridiculous. If we could see that butterfly and talk to that butterfly (and they could understand us of course), we would tell that butterfly, “But you are a butterfly. You can’t change what you already are! There’s nothing you could do to make you any less of a butterfly or any more of a butterfly. Why are you praying to be a butterfly? You are a butterfly! Now get out of that cocoon and be a butterfly!”

Believer, are you beginning to see?

You are the new creation. You have been transformed. Morphed into a new creature.

So, start living as a butterfly. Believe that’s how God sees you because that is who you are.

Nothing you can do will make you more of a new creation, and nothing that you can do will make you less of a new creation.

Stop trying to live out of the cocoon.

Stop seeing yourself as the empty shell (that old self is dead and buried).

Stop praying to be a butterfly.

You are a butterfly.

You are not worthless and lifeless.

You have Life living inside of you.


Have faith.

Be the butterfly.

First Church of IKEA (i.e., Designer Church)

This week I returned to my old stomping grounds in Dallas, Texas.  My wife and I lived in Carrollton and Arlington while we were still dating and for the first few years of our marriage.  It’s amazing how things have changed just in and around our old apartment complex where we used to live in a relatively short amount of time.  We also visited an area of town known for it’s high end shopping and stores and restaurants.  I had my first experience in an IKEA store, which upon entering, my wife declared, “Welcome to the mother ship of shopping!”  Boy, was she right!  Rows and rows of things that you never knew you needed until they were displayed in an oh-so-friendly manner.  And, there was room after room of all kinds of things for your home.  We wound in and out of the aisles and I realized that they were herding us in one direction like a cow heading towards the branding chute.  But, I was so amazed by all the products and displays that, hey, I didn’t really mind all that much.  And, I have to say, the prices were really good on a lot of things.  And, there was all kinds of furniture and closets and kitchens that you could design on your own or with the help of one of the associates.  Closet systems, tables, entire kitchens, even entire homes could all be designed to your liking.

As we were leaving, I thought about how our churches have become much like my experience at IKEA.  We try to offer something for everyone.  We try to offer the slickest, coolest kids program in town.  Our youth program is second to none – complete with video games and their own worship experience.  We have every kind of small group imaginable.  Our programs reflect our culture much of the time, and dare I say it, maybe even more than they reflect the heart of Jesus?  We want to reach people and think that by offering all these programs and a “build your own church experience” mentality that the people will come and we’ll be able to speak to them and share the Gospel.

We tend to ask the questions, “What do people want?  What will bring them into the building? What can we offer them to keep them?  How can we draw people into our building?”  But, how many times do we stop and ask ourselves, “What would Jesus want?  How can we go outside of the building to reach people?  How do we meet people where they are like Jesus did?  What will make the people want to go out of the building and share the Gospel and serve Jesus and the community?”

To be fair, I believe that many of these pastors and people running these programs have great hearts and want to do the right thing and want to reach people for Christ.  But what Gospel are we presenting to the people who walk through the doors?  Are we presenting a “Choose your own Gospel adventure…” Or are we presenting the way of the Cross?  Are we presenting the “Lay it all down because that is what Christ has asked us to do” Gospel?  Or do we continue to present a “Come to church, give more money, and bring more friends” because that’s what a good little Christian does kind of Gospel?  Much of the time, though, it seems we continue to ask the wrong questions.  How would our experience of church differ if we started asking different questions?  Maybe some of it would look the same.  Maybe a LOT of it would look very differently.  But, the first step is to start asking different questions.  

And leave the design-it-yourself experiences to IKEA.  Because, let’s face it, they do a great job at it!