Nature has a habit of surprising us with serendipitous gifts of hope: a beautiful sunset, a flower growing in an unexpected place, hearing the first robin of spring. These are happy, life-giving discoveries we hadn’t expected. The surprise that comes with them reminds us that being open to surprise is one of the chief qualities of a hope-filled person. Many of the symbols that we use for hope come from nature: rainbows, doves, and butterflies. Butterflies are often used as a symbol of resurrection—new life from death. Understanding how a butterfly transforms from caterpillar to winged new life deepens this imagery.
When a caterpillar hatches from an egg, it already has everything it needs within itself to become a butterfly even though it bears very little resemblance to the lovely creature it will one day become. A caterpillar has one great task before it: eat and grow so it can construct a chrysalis where its transformation into a butterfly will happen. Becoming a butterfly, though, isn’t just a matter of rearranging caterpillar parts into butterfly parts. A caterpillar literally dissolves and disintegrates inside the chrysalis. It’s from this “caterpillar soup” that a butterfly comes together, truly a new life from the creature it was before. From start to finish, the life of a butterfly offers us a profound symbol of hope.