I’ve been thinking a lot about transformation, and not just because it’s the theme for May. Not just because our chalice circles will grapple with this topic or because I will be preaching on it. I’ve been thinking about transformation because of a furry little friend, “Emerson.”
Nearly a year ago, our congregation decided to start having a little caterpillar puppet tell the Story for All Ages. We had a naming contest. “Emerson” is a regular in our pulpit, telling us of his adventures and friends, including soon the appearance of “Fuller” the Flamingo. Every time I look at Emerson, I think of what an incredible symbol of transformation he is for our congregation; that we are all in this ongoing, exhausting and brilliant process of change.
And while Unitarian Universalists don’t generally believe in that instantaneous change by the light, we do have our fair share of transformation. After all, Most of us weren’t raised in this faith. Many of us have undergone some major changes just to gather on Sundays. Think about for a moment the religious home of your childhood. Perhaps, you were like me and raised without a particular tradition, “unchurched” as they say. Yes, we know something about the exploring journey; what it is to discover home. I couldn’t imagine as a child being a part of such a radically inclusive faith, let alone serving as a minister! Transformed? I’d say “yes” and continue to say “yes.”
Inch by inch, we know the crawl to the tree, the long, hard effort of the forming chrysalis, the invisible change beneath the murky sheen of heart and soul, and then the slow push free as a new way of being breaks forth in beauty. Inch by inch, we know the transformation of a lifetime of learning and evolving even in our own lives. Inch by inch, we know what it is to be transformed not in an instant, but rather as the long journey toward our deepest potential, toward the calling of our spiritual DNA. Not changed because what came before was bad or needed discarding, but transformed into the beauty that was beneath the surface. Transformed toward ourselves, rather than from ourselves.
Some faiths celebrate the butterfly. We celebrate the caterpillar.
The bravery and tenacity of living our lives, no matter how seemingly ordinary they appear. We celebrate the great changes that are beneath the surface, lived out in our values rather than proclaimed loudly in flutters of beauty. We celebrate the tough crawl, the messiness of being, and the beauty from our brokenness. We celebrate the brave little worm who would believe enough in himself to see that something impossible can break forth from the smallest cocoons.
We celebrate the caterpillar; knowing we’ll discover home—the soul’s rest and rejoice—together, inch by inch.
Yes, inch by inch.