Sometimes, I find myself unable to prepare for all the absurdities that we find in the animal kingdom. God, in all His creative power, orchestrated some incredibly strange behaviors that keep me endlessly entertained.
One of these more recent discoveries that I have come across involves the caterpillar of the Uraba lugens moth that can be found in Australia and New Zealand. It is known by some as the mad hatterpillar which obviously refers back to the Mad Hatter character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. This caterpillar sheds its exoskeletons, as is the custom of many caterpillars, but it does so in a way that is incredibly rare and unique. As the remainder of its old body falls away (up to an amazing 13 times!), the head sections of its previous bodies remain fused to its new head. In a very strange way, it is creating a shocking headdress of past chapters of its life – periods of life in which there were many struggles and threats to its life, and yet it lives on, testifying to its survival.
On occasion, I will come across some bit of trivia and see myself reflected back. Do you see any commonalities between yourself and this animal? I didn’t immediately, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw my Christian testimony. And it’s likely that, no matter how hard I try, whenever I think of my testimony from here on out, I will see this creepy crawly in my mind’s eye. If you don’t mind joining me in that way, please, continue reading.
First, we might establish what a Christian testimony is. We might define it as a way of living and communicating which displays to the world how belief in Jesus’s sacrifice and gift of salvation has been experienced in our own personal history. Its purpose is not, necessarily, to generally detail the Gospel and how it works in its grand, theological perspective, but it speaks to how the Gospel has personally saved us from our sins and resulted in regeneration in our own lives and brings healing and restoration in a broken person.
In Acts 4:33, we read that the apostles were powerfully “giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” These were not general statements to a very commonly understood religious doctrine. These were personal statements of impact on individuals who had been with Jesus, seen Him with their own eyes, heard His voice with their own ears, and even touched His wounds with their very own hands. They were eyewitnesses and their lives would never be the same for what they encountered through Jesus’s resurrection.
In Luke 8:39, Jesus has cast demons out of a man, and while he was begging to remain with Jesus longer, Jesus tells him that he should “go back to [his] home, and tell all that God has done for [him].” What did the man do? Luke wrote, “and off he went, proclaiming throughout the town how much Jesus had done for him.” This man lived a testimony. He didn’t describe the Gospel in abstract theological terms, but he invited people into his circumstances so that they might see how God could take such troubles as his own and bring redemption. Even those possessed by a “legion” of demons had hope of reconciliation with God. This was truly good news!
You see, our mad hatterpillar lives life in a volatile world. It puts on display, in a way that cannot be ignored, that it has grown and developed over time. Interestingly enough, this caterpillar is testifying to its own strength. It’s telling the world how accomplished it is, through its own power, with each head it collects. And with research, it actually becomes clear that the purpose of these heads is to go on the offensive and strike at predators who get too close.
These ideas stand in stark contrast to a Christian’s true testimony. Though we can have great temptations to testify to the world that our own grit got us to where we’re at, or that our own mental capabilities has allowed us to successfully argue others out of their worldviews, or that our political mastery has won the culture back to God, Scriptures presents a prerequisite of Christian testimony that begins with God’s love for His creation and ends with His grace towards the unworthy. We are all made up of stories in which God has called a broken sinner into forgiveness through the cross and how He has loved us into eternal communion with Himself, even when we could never merit it ourselves.
King David was incredibly powerful in his day and had plenty to boast about in regard to his own accomplishments. But what do we believe he said around the time of Absalom’s rebellion in Psalm 71:15-18? “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”
In a way, each of us are like the mad hatterpillar. We carry with us a very real testimony of the greatness of God and how His love and grace towards us opened the doors to eternal communion with Him. Though some of us might make our testimonies more private than we ought and others of us try and present a testimony about our own grit or power, we should never forget the hope that is presented to the world when our Creator God seeks and saves the lost (Luke 19:10).
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff