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Learn a Life Lesson from a Procession of Caterpillars

February 10, 2020

While reading through a devotional called The Word for Today published in New Zealand, I found an experiment that challenged me. Let’s see if it doesn’t challenge you or at least get you thinking. It is achievable for most people who read this article.

My article starts with a verse from the Ancient Scriptures, “You have skirted this mountain long enough.” Deut. 2:3. The Jewish nation had been traveling for forty years in circles around Mount Sinai. While the Promised Land was just a few miles away, they just kept going around and around the mountain. God finally said enough, “That’s enough. You’re going in.”

Does this sound familiar? Many folks keep on going around and around when God wants to lead them to their Promised Land. That’s called output with no outcome other than frustration. Then there is the inevitable blame-shifting and victim thing that sets in. If you really look at it objectively, blame-shifting and the victim thing will just keep one walking around the mountain another forty years.

Here’s where the experiment I mentioned above comes in. Read on.

“A biologist experimented with what he called ‘processional caterpillars.’ He lined up the caterpillars on the rim of a pot that held a plant so that the lead caterpillar was head-to-tail with the last caterpillar, with no break in the parade. The tiny creatures walked around the rim of the pot for a full week before they died of exhaustion and starvation. Not once did any of them break out of line and venture over to the plant to eat. Food was only inches away, but their follow-the-crowd instinct was stronger than the drive to eat and survive.”

The exact same thing happened to an entire generation of Israelites. They walked in circles in the wilderness for forty years, even though they were only a few miles away from the Promised Land. Don’t think it couldn't happen to you, your friends, your career, your habits, your attitude, your perception of yourself, or your relationships.

The truth is sometimes we can get stuck, really stuck. That’s called life. Yet life happens when you need to go deep inside yourself to get free of yourself. While victory and plenty are just a few choices and a few miles away, we tend to want to stay in ruts of our own making, doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results.

Here are three questions to ask yourself when stuck in a cycle for years. Firstly, is this rut of my own making? Ruts of our own making tend to make us comfortable. Secondly, who am I following? Instead of mindlessly following the crowd that is going nowhere, seek a better voice that can take you where you want to go. Thirdly, where am I going? The discovery of purpose is the discovery of life.

Let’s explore the first question, is this rut a rut of my own making? As in the case of the Israelites, it was a rut of their own making. Years before God led them to the edge of the Promised Land, only to have them start murmuring and complaining. This led them into their own self-made ‘circle the mountain’ rut for the next forty years.

What caused the people to freak out? They weren’t familiar with unfamiliar promised lands. They wanted the old land, even though they were miserable. They wanted to hold on. They wouldn’t let go and let God have control of their lives. God had a vision, but they have a comfort zone, just like those caterpillars. Think about it. The Israelites died out in the wilderness, just like those caterpillars.

Don’t be a caterpillar, be a pillar. To get out of the rut, you let go of what is for what can be. Take responsibility and most times, you’ll take ahold of what can be. There’s a better life for you and me in God.

Secondly, who am I following? Think about it. Maybe you are following a voice that has been going in circles, walking around their own self-styled rut and taking you with them. Misery loves company and especially when they need a crowd to validate and justify their rut.

Many folks started following a voice, a philosophy, a movement, a poor self-image, a guilty conscience, a lifestyle in their teens and never got away from it. Forty years later, thousands of times around the mountain and a wasted youth later they are still stuck in the same rut. Remember, and this is going to sound tough, if you are following four losers, you are about to become the fifth loser. Ask those caterpillars. Oh wait, they’re dead.

The last question to ask is where am I going? What is your purpose and vision for your life? What do you contain that no one else does? What are your gifts and abilities? What is your passion?  Find those and you find life. Where there is no vision, there’s no direction. You become aimless.

So, if you have skirted your ‘mountain’ long enough, step out, step up and set into, the ‘bigger-better-greater’ that God has for you. Don’t be like Jimmy Buffet. I respect him for acknowledging his problem with the woman was “my own damn fault.” I would suggest that he decide to quit “wasting away again in Margaritaville.” A decision is a breakthrough in seed form.

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com