July 5th, 2020 Sunday Service Message: Lessons from the Turtle – “The Gift of the Butterfly”

Be Ye Transformed

In the fifth of her series of talks based on Steve Goodier’s Lessons from the Turtle1, Rev. Joanne continues the story of the spiritual unfoldment of Turtle by telling us The Gift of the Butterfly.  Still on his back (it’s amazing that Turtle hasn’t called out Owl for not helping him, perhaps he'll help him next week), Turtle patiently listens to Owl go on about the butterfly that has landed on his belly.  If I were in Turtle’s place, perhaps I might not be so willing to listen to the wisdom Owl is giving.  But then this is a fable, so we accept it for what it is . . .

. . . the metaphor of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly.  Owl explains to Turtle that the life of a butterfly is very short, perhaps only a few weeks, so it has learned to live as fully as it can in this now moment.  Turtles live a very long time, and perhaps they think that “tomorrow” is soon enough to take the action needed to make a positive change in their life.  Butterflies, Owl tells Turtle, know that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing now.

Knowing that it is living only a short time, a butterfly feeds on nectar and prepares itself to lay eggs so that the cycle of life can begin again.  In the spring, when the eggs hatch, they emerge as tiny caterpillars.  The caterpillars gorge themselves non-stop and grow very rapidly.  Once they reach a critical size, they spin a cocoon around themselves.  In that cocoon their caterpillar body breaks down into a mass of goo, including the imaginal cells that facilitate the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly allowing the cycle to continue again. 

We can learn much about ourselves from this process.  As Rev. Joanne reminds us, a caterpillar gorges itself to prepare for metamorphosis.  What are we gorging ourselves on?  Our physical bodies notwithstanding, although our bodies certainly are part of our spiritual experience, are we “feeding” on thoughts of fear, lack, anger, low self esteem, guilt, regret, sadness, hopelessness and despair?  If we allow our spiritual diet to consist of these types of nutrients, it should come as no surprise when our experience of the world reflects these inner states.  If instead we feed our spiritual selves with thoughts of love, abundance, happiness, high self esteem, personal responsibility, contentment, joy, hopefulness, and optimism our experience in the world will reflect those inner states.

While our inner states do help to shape our outer experience, we must be careful not to engage in what Rev. Joanne has called “spiritual malpractice.”  It would not be truthful or honest to say that we are having difficulties in life only because of our attitude.  Clearly the world provides challenges.  It would be equally untrue to say that things going well for us are dependent only upon our attitude.  We must act to effect positive changes.

Unlike a caterpillar which transforms into a butterfly only once in its life, humans have the ability to “spin a cocoon” around ourselves as often as we want, and choose to transform our lives for the better.  As Rev. Joanne points out, outer circumstances over which we have little or no control can become the “goo” of our metamorphosis.  Covid-19 is but one such outer circumstance.  Independent of our understanding, beliefs, and opinions about this complex topic, we all have the ability to choose to feed on the spiritual food of prayer, meditation, affirmations and denials, and being aware of the thoughts we are holding about the situation and our reactions to it.  The awareness alone cannot affect the outer circumstances, but may allow us to act in ways that foster healing and unity instead of on-going fear and division.  That is no small thing.

Because of the outer circumstances of Covid-19 we may feel as though we are limited in what actions we can take right now.  This may in fact be true.  But the lesson of the Butterfly is one not only of transformation, but living in the now moment and looking for joy in life that is not dependent on the outside influences, not waiting for when things get back to normal.  Rev. Joanne tells us that joy is simply understanding that as we live into the Spirit of God that is within us, we find a place of well being.  We know that at any moment we can pause, breathe, and realign with the Divine Power where all possibilities exist, not for “someday,” but for here and now.

How do we realign with Divine Power?  Rev. Joanne reminds us that at all times we have within us the Twelve Powers as an omnipresent resource to connect with the Divine.  It is fast, easy, and effective to keep in mind short affirmations to remind us of our Divine nature:

From Unity Worldwide Ministries:

Affirmation:  Faith blesses my day and paves my way.

Affirmation:  I have the strength to accomplish all that is mine to do.

Affirmation:  I am guided by divine wisdom in every thought, word, and action.

Affirmation:  I am a center of love.

Affirmation:  I have the power to create my world.

Affirmation:  I imagine good unfolding in every area of my life.

Affirmation:  My understanding of Truth deepens and directs my life.

Affirmation:  I choose (will) my good based on spiritual understanding. 

Affirmation:  My life is balanced and in order, and all is well.

Affirmation:  I enthusiastically (zeal) accept my good and go forward to achieve my purpose.

Affirmation:  I release anything and everything that no longer serves my unfolding good.

Affirmation:  I am filled with life, sweet life.

People can become skeptical to the idea that spiritual principles can have a positive affect on our lives.  Rev. Joanne tells a story of a young man who has become jaded by all of the ills he sees in the world and concludes that is evidence that spiritual principles do not work.  He asks his rabbi about this.  The rabbi shows the young man a group of children who are dirty and messy from playing on the ground.  He says the dirt on the children is like the ills of the world and that the soap they will use to bathe are spiritual principles that cleanse us.  Just as we must wash ourselves daily, so too must we use spiritual principles to cleanse our spirit.  Dirt does not indicate the principles are ineffective, only that it must be used regularly.

Like the butterfly, we can transform ourselves.  Just as the butterfly does, we must learn to live in the now moment.  Using the spiritual tools we know, we can transform ourselves for the better, and in so doing make the world a more pleasant place for everyone.


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Spiritual Practice:

This week, spend some time each day in quiet solitude.  Use this time for self-reflection, gratitude, dreaming, and affirming.  Consider how you can turn your life right side up today!  Spend time each day taking action.  Consider what you can do today to live right side up.

Greg Skuderin

1Goodier, Steve, Lessons of the Turtle, Living Right Side Up, Life Support System Pub Inc, 2002.