Once upon a time there was a very fuzzy, very hungry caterpillar. His name was Carl. He loved to eat and eat leaves all day long.
One day, after stuffing his belly so full of leaves from the garden that he felt sick and could not move, Carl began to wonder if this was the way he should spend all his life. Disgusted with himself, he decided right then and there that he wanted a better life. In fact, he wished he could transcend his biological reality and become something more handsome and noble.
But even if he could discover how to accomplish such a miracle there would not be enough time to make it happen.
He knew that all the insects in the garden lived short lives. He believed that he, as well as all his other insect neighbors, would die as soon as winter came. But he wondered if anyone in the garden had discovered a solution to this problem of mortality.
Carl’s hunger for leaves now became a hunger for knowledge. So he began to inch his way through the garden in the hopes of finding someone with the answers.
Soon he came upon an amazing sight. It was a creature with a most noble presence. It stood before him with its front arms folded together in a unique way.
“Who are you?’ asked the curious caterpillar.
“I am Paul, the Praying Mantis,” came the reply.
“Why do you clasp your hands together like that?”
“I am in constant worship to God,” said Paul.
“Who is God?” returned Carl.
The praying mantis looked down at the caterpillar with some disdain and answered, “God created the world. Nothing is impossible with God. I fold my hands so that God will notice how religious I am and will reward me with eternal life.”
Carl became excited. It seemed he had found someone with the answer he was seeking.
“Is that all you have to do, just keep your hands folded all day long and you escape death?’ inquired the fat and fuzzy Carl.
“Yes. Faith in God is all one needs. By folding my hands I become one of the elect. My praying posture will ensure that I will gain God’s special attention,” replied Paul.
Carl quickly tried to fold his arms. He had a dozen of them. But they were all too short and stubby to clasp together. “I can’t fold my arms! God will never look down favorably upon me now,” said the forlorn caterpillar.
Noticing how plump and juicy Carl looked, Paul invited him to come closer. “Let me get a better look at you. Maybe you have some other redeeming qualities.”
Carl crawled closer to the praying mantis. As soon as he came within an arm’s reach of the pious predator, the mantis opened up his arms, which were lined with frightening sharp daggers and took a swipe at Carl.
Luckily, the mantis missed. Carl quickly curled up into a little ball and rolled safely away.
When he finally came to a stop, he felt worse than before. He not only believed that he would never attain eternal happiness but he had now lost his appetite for leaves as well. What was poor Carl to do?
Suddenly, he felt the presence of something flying over his head. He looked up and saw a winged creature coming towards him, seemingly out from the heavens. It gently landed in front of him. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen in the garden.
“Who are you?” asked Carl.
“My name is Angel. I am a butterfly,” she said with a loving smile.
“What were you doing up their in the sky?” returned Carl.
“I live in insect heaven,” she said. “Instead of eating gross leaves, I flit about in the air and sip the heavenly nectar of flowers.”
“Were you born that way?” asked Carl.
“Oh no. I was once a fat, fuzzy caterpillar like you, concerned only with filling my belly. But I desired to become something better than I was during my first summer,” said Angel with a countenance of conviction.
“First summer? That means you survived death and the cold winter,” exclaimed the caterpillar. “How did you change from something as lowly as me to something as beautiful as you?”
“I am reborn,” she said.
“Can I be reborn too” asked Carl.
“Yes! But in order to be reborn you must first die. Furthermore, you must die in a special way. You must renounce your former way of life and allow God to change you into an entirely new creature with different aspirations.”
“Can you teach me how to do this?” pleaded the longing larva.
“Yes, indeed. You have already started the process by losing your appetite for leaves and you are now hungry for change.” With that said she moved closer to Carl and whispered some special instructions for him. Then Angel flew away, disappearing into bright sky.
Some time later, a cold wind blew into the garden. The seasons were changing. Carl knew it was time to implement the plan that Angel had taught him.
So he crawled up a small tree in the garden and when he came to the end of a branch, he began spinning a cocoon around himself. He was actually building his own tomb. Inside, he would stop living as a caterpillar and would turn his life completely over to God.
Then came the frost.
Several feet below, on the frozen ground, lay the lifeless praying mantis, still clasping his hands. In spite of his pious posture, he had no desire to change the way he was.
As Spring returned to the garden, Carl emerged from his tomb. He spread his new wings and joined the other butterflies in joyful flight. Carl now understood a most important lesson. Heaven is something you become.