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Fred the Caterpillar is getting lethargic. I have not actually seen him move in a couple of days now.

Fred was given to us by one of our awesome church members. He came complete with a plastic box, a cup of some sort of food that he seems to really like and a plastic palm tree for him to climb.

The first few days we had him, Fred was pretty active. He would climb into the cup and eat, crawl back out and climb around the walls of the box. The only thing I have not seen him do is climb the palm tree.

But a couple of days ago, Fred crawled into the goodie cup and has begun to weave a web of sorts over the top of it. I looked at him just a moment ago as I write this and he seems utterly still.

Fred (by the way, no, I do not know if "Fred" is actually a boy. He could be "Fredrica" for all I know, but if you saw him, I think you would agree the name Fred just seems to fit) is getting ready to produce a chrysalis or cocoon. He will become completely encased inside that housing and, about two weeks later, will emerge as something radically different.

A butterfly is an amazing creation. But the process by which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly is actually almost gruesome. Fred is basically going to digest himself and become a soupy mess inside that cocoon. But God has designed the process in such a beautiful way that Fred's messy, soupy death will actually lead to a far more beautiful life.

The obvious and oft-used spiritual application here is a good one. Yes, a sinner dies to self and becomes a new creature in Christ, just as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says. And yes, the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis is a good illustration of that in many ways. But I am thinking along a bit of a different pathway as I consider our temporary, soon-to-be-released new pet.

Life would be grand, we think, if the road to success could be paved with pleasure. But that is not normally reality. Both Scripture and experience testify to the fact that the road to success is often paved with struggle, heartache and the hot soupy mess of one difficulty after another. And the very greatest triumph ever achieved fits that template.

When Jesus Christ secured the means of our redemption, he did so by treading the most precarious, painful road anyone has ever traveled.

Hebrews 12:2 says, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Jesus endured the most horrific of treatment because that was part of the price that had to be paid for our sin. The Old Testament prophetically and the New Testament historically gave us the picture of what he endured. He was mocked and dragged through an illegal trial in which 18 laws were broken to secure his conviction.

He was beaten. He was scourged. A crown of long, pliable thorns was forced down onto his head. He was beaten in the head with a hard reed. By the time the abuse was done, Isaiah tells us that "his visage was so marred more than any man," meaning his face could no longer even be recognized.

Then he was nailed to a cross and hung in the heat of the day to experience dehydration, blood loss, shock, and no one would so much as give him a sip of water to drink.

But the physical agony pales in comparison to the spiritual price he paid on that day. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, it says, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

All of our sins were poured out on him, and he tasted death for every man.

In a few days, I will see Fred the Butterfly take flight, having suffered and died for his own benefit. Two thousand years ago, Jesus suffered and died for our benefit, and one day we who have believed in him will take our own flight as a result and meet him face to face to say "thank you."

Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., and the author of several books available at www.wordofhismouth.com. Contact him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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