Butterflies and caterpillars frequent my little garden. One of these is the common tiger. It lays eggs about 1mm in diameter that hatch into tiny caterpillars. These then devour the single pot of crown flowers, growing into pretty, juicy striped-green caterpillars. Soon, a pupa is formed and 5 days later, a beautiful orange and black common tiger butterfly emerges.
My son Benjamin followed a few cycles from start to finish when he was younger. It was joyful to see the delight in his eyes as he sought the caterpillars early in the morning, tracked the pupation process after we transferred the fully-grown caterpillars into transparent plastic containers and eagerly awaited the butterflies’ emergence. He does not do this anymore. Through this process, I learnt some lessons on intentionality.
First, devotion of time and effort into something depends on the value that we place on that object or activity.
For Benjamin, it was the beauty and wonder of the entire process that made him intentional in devoting time and energy into observing the transformation. Competing priorities like homework and violin practice were fulfilled only after caterpillar and pupae observation.
Second, anticipation of a wonderful result made him more and more intentional as the emergence of the butterflies nears.
Third, boredom kills intentionality. After a few life cycles of same old butterfly, the excitement diminished considerably. The last time we had those caterpillars, we removed them and placed them in a larger public park, preventing them from decimating the single pot of crown flowers.
Can we draw parallels in our pursuit of God? Deep in our hearts, do we view our Saviour and our Creator as Someone of infinite beauty and wonder, more dazzling than the lights around us? Are we bored because we no longer learn new things about Him? Do we anticipate with excitement anymore our promised future?
The sad truth is that very often, we answer the above questions in the negative. That is when the intentional pursuit of God is no longer automatically inspired, but is brought about either by willpower or by habit. We are heartened by His promise that He will give us this will; He will form our habits to pursue Him (Phil 2:13). Like the steering wheel of a car, we only need to start turning in the right direction and He does the rest of the work through power-steering. Through His empowering, we are transformed to be more and more like Him (2 Cor 3:18); we see His beauty and learn new things about our Creator and His creation; we are more excited about our future together with Him.
Our intentional pursuit of Him becomes more automatically inspired and the virtuous cycle continues.
Let’s therefore journey together, looking forward to the time when we can be excited again by the butterflies, caterpillars and people around us, because we see the beauty of God in all of His creation.
By Ong Kiat Hoe, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 20&21 January 2018)