Working for a small privately owned company with a strong Christian presence has both its plusses and minuses. While there is a certain camaraderie which is beneficial, it can also be very isolating. A fellow co-worker, a recent college graduate, and I were discussing the frustration of spending most of our times in a Christian cocoon – Christian family, strong church involvement, having mostly Christian friends and co-workers – while desiring to have an evangelistic presence in the world in which we live. Neither of us wanted to live only in the cocoon.
As I later reflected on our discussion, the image of the butterfly came to mind. The caterpillar must go through the chrysalis stage in order to be transformed into a beautiful butterfly. The goal of entering the chrysalis is not to stay there, but to emerge at the proper time, free to soar above the ground instead of crawling upon it. It is a time of metamorphosis, when the caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. If the butterfly emerges too quickly it likely will be deformed or stunted, unable to fly and will likely quickly die. If its emergence is delayed too long it also won’t survive. The length of time as a chrysalis depends upon the season of the year, the average temperature and the type of butterfly. Emerging at the right time gives the butterfly the freedom to be what God intended it to be.
The same is true in our Christian life. One of the goals of the church and the Christian family is to provide the Christian culture and nurturing environment for children to develop into young men and women who are free to be all that God intends them to be, able to think for themselves and develop a strong faith. During our growing up years, home and church should be a cocoon, providing the training and upbringing that will eventually allow us to spread our Christian wings and soar. They should provide the nurturing that we need in order to mature. Just as with the butterfly, either leaving too early or too late can cause problems – too early and our faith is not developed enough to survive the onslaught of the secular culture in which we are immersed; too late and we may not have the strength to be independent, always needing hand-holding and support in order to survive. In either case, one’s faith may wither and die.
Parents who are over protective are in as much danger as those who are over tolerant in seeing their children abandon the faith. While working in a coffee house ministry during my seminary years, I witnessed several college students, whose entire life until then revolved around church and Christian schools. They had been isolated from the larger world. As a result, they struggled with questions about their faith; both abandoning the church and living lives filled with drugs and promiscuity. Out on their own, away from home for the first time, with no one to hold their hand, they were ill prepared to handle their first adventure into the secular world around them.
In order to prepare one’s children for a life in the world, it is important to live out the faith we proclaim so that our children can see our faith in action. It is important to discuss issues from a Christian perspective so that our children develop a Christian worldview and understand why they have it. There is one question which Christian parents should keep in the forefront of their minds: How well am I preparing my children to leave the cocoon?