Not long after my mom died, a friend sent me a silly yet profound story about two caterpillars. One day, these caterpillars are crawling along on the ground when a big beautiful butterfly soared by in the sunlight overhead, casting a shadow across the caterpillars’ path. Both looked up and saw the butterfly, and one said to the other, “You’ll never get me up in one of those things!”
Well, you and I know that one day, that caterpillar will become “one of those things.” One day that caterpillar will curl up on a branch, and it will seem to die. But when springtime comes, a beautiful butterfly will burst out and have a new life. If we remember back to our days in biology class, we know the change that the caterpillar experienced is known as metamorphosis.
Now, I am not sure how much the Apostle Paul knew about caterpillars and butterflies, but I know he understood the process of metamorphosis. After all, he wrote about it to the church in Rome. He tells the Roman church not to be conformed but to be transformed, to experience a metamorphosis, by God’s own powerful, mysterious, uncontrollable grace.
After encouraging the people to be transformed, Paul gives a warning of sorts to the church…and us: “God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you…Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it…Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.” (Romans 12, The Message). I think these words from Paul contributed to John Wesley’s third General Rule: Stay in love with God (paraphrased by Bishop Rueben Job).
Staying in love with God comes from the center of who we are. Staying in love with God is how we keep from burning out. It is how we keep ourselves “fueled and aflame.” When we love someone, we are intentional about our relationship with him/her. We talk. We eat together. We learn about the other. We sacrifice for that person. We celebrate their good. We are energized by being with that person. We work at the relationship, but the work doesn’t feel like work. So, what does that look like when it comes to our love of God? What does it mean to say, “I will stay in love with God?”
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