The Butterfly Palace is a family owned attraction in Branson, Missouri. On my last visit to the area, I visited The Butterfly Palace with my sister and her family. In the butterfly aviary, which is designed to be a living rainforest, there are over 1,000 live tropical butterflies from around the world. Butterflies of all sizes and colors were flying everywhere and even lighting on us.
As we walked through the aviary, it was hard to decide where to look next. As a photographer, I was most interested in taking photos of the beautiful butterflies. While we were there, we took part in the daily butterfly release. The Butterfly Palace purchases butterflies in the chrysalis stage from around the world. Each chrysalis is placed in a plastic container. Every day, the butterflies that have emerged from their chrysalis are released into the aviary. The average lifespan of a butterfly is about one month, so the Butterfly Palace must release new butterflies to keep a large population in the aviary.
I enjoyed being a part of the butterfly release. People who are in the aviary at the time of the release are allowed to participate. Each butterfly is in the clear plastic container that has been the home of the chrysalis. Those of us participating were instructed to hold the container over our heads, remove the lid, and turn the container upside down, allowing the butterfly to go free. Some of the butterflies had to be coaxed out of the container after it was opened. My butterfly was eager to be free and flew out of the container before I even turned it upside down.
The butterfly release provides for some great photo opportunities. When the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, its wings are wet, and the butterfly cannot yet fly. The wings must dry, and the butterfly must exercise flight muscles before it can fly. When the butterflies are released, they like to find a place to land and stretch out their wings. I took some beautiful photographs of these butterflies with their wings spread out.
Butterflies are born as an egg. Next, they turn into a caterpillar. This caterpillar will eat constantly and will grow through this stage of its life. As the caterpillar grows, it will molt or shed its skin. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it goes into a resting stage and becomes a chrysalis. When the chrysalis breaks open, and a butterfly comes out, the adult butterfly will begin the process all over again by laying eggs of its own.
Scientists refer to this process of transformation as metamorphosis. It is an amazing process that is difficult to understand. First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve its tissues. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, and all the other features of an adult butterfly. One butterfly expert said, “The creation of the body of a caterpillar into the body and wings of a butterfly is, without doubt, one of the wonders of life on earth.”
Just like the rebirth of a caterpillar into a butterfly can be a difficult process to understand, so can the rebirth of a person. When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (NLT) Nicodemus then asked Him, “how can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” John 3:4 (NLT)
The caterpillar’s metamorphosis provides a great illustration of a believer’s spiritual transformation. The caterpillar's main purpose in life is eating. It eats the leaves in its world just as we feed on the ideas of the world around us. In the chrysalis stage, the caterpillar appears lifeless. Paul described this stage of a Christians life in Romans 6:6 (NCV); “We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin.”
When the caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis, it is transformed into a completely new creature. When we recognize our sin, confess it, and receive God’s forgiveness, we are transformed into a new life in Him. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV) tells us that, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
Once the butterfly emerges, it does not return to the caterpillar state. When a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it flies; something it couldn’t do before. The butterfly drinks sweet nectar instead of gorging on leaves. The butterfly has a new life, a new purpose, a new way of feeding itself.
Gentle Reader, are you a new creation in Christ still trying to gorge on the leaves of this world? Are you still trying to crawl back inside the chrysalis to live as you once lived? Once a butterfly breaks free from the chrysalis, it is free to soar to new heights. It never goes back to its former way, of being in bondage in the chrysalis. Instead, it lives its life as God fully intended. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
More photos from The Butterfly Palace. All of the photos on this post were taken by my wife and me at The Butterfly Palace.