This week I was involved in creating an art installation at Kingston University. Entitled ‘Metamorphosis’, the artwork took visitors to the Chaplaincy on a journey of transformation from earth-bound, hungry caterpillar to a beautiful and colourful butterfly eager to take flight. This process of change was used to explore how university students might see their experience of learning but was also likened to a journey of faith. The idea came from a book called ‘Chrysalis’ by Alan Jamieson. He proposed that when we first encounter Christ it is all very new and exciting and like the caterpillar all the experiences we have feed us and cause us to grow. However, as we begin to mature and life becomes more challenging, we often begin to question what we have learnt as we seek to make our faith relevant to real-life relationships and situations. It is in this process of struggle and deconstruction that God is able to reshape us so that we are more truly the unique creation he has made us to be and we more radiantly reflect His glory in the world. We are then ready to emerge from our cocoon recreated more closely into His likeness, the beauty of our true selves evident to all as we take flight!
I feel this transformation very much mirrors my own experience of life and faith and finding people who identify with this process in their own life has made me more confident to try new things and enabled me to be more willing to reveal the depth of my own thoughts and intuitions. But more than this personal journey of self discovery, the miracle of ‘metamorphosis’ can awaken in us the desire for “all things to be made new” and an experience of physical or spiritual transformation can also be a foretaste of the recreation that God has promised us for eternity. “I have struggled,” writes Michael McCarthy, of the Independent, “to find a way of expressing my elation at seeing the first butterfly of the year. It was a brimstone, a bright yellow brimstone. Using science, and rationality, I can tell you quite a lot about it: that it was an insect; that it belonged to the butterfly family Pieridae, the whites… that in its caterpillar stage it had fed on the plants buckthorn or alder buckthorn; and that it had hibernated disguised as a leaf, probably in an ivy clump, until the first warm day in March woke it up. But that doesn’t really describe it. That brimstone electrified me instantly; it was the sign of the turning year, not just of the warm times coming again but of the great rebirth of everything, the great unstoppable renewal, and the brilliance of its colour seemed to proclaim the magnitude of the change it was signalling.” Now we see in part, snatch glimpses, sense fleeting impressions of a greater reality. Having lived in the equivalent of monochrome, we eagerly await a life of glorious technicolour!