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A Christmas Monarch

By Tim Hartzell

So the other day I was doing some research for this article on worship and happened to find myself on a website dedicated to the preservation of the Monarch butterfly. How you ask? Well, I was looking for a synonym for the word king and monarch was one of the suggestions. I clicked on monarch, and that’s when the butterfly stuff popped up on my screen. I don’t have Attention Deficit Disorder, but I spent the next two hours reading all about Monarch butterflies.
I have always known about Monarch butterflies migrating to central Mexico for the winter, but I really never understood how it worked. Seriously, have you ever watched a butterfly flutter by? They look like they have no idea where they’re going. It’s comical. Their erratic flight pattern has always kept me a bit skeptical about the whole 2,500-mile migration thing.
But I’m not skeptical anymore. I’ve done the research, and now I get it. So what happens is this …
In late summer, the Monarchs that emerge are different than their early summer counterparts. These late summer Monarchs emerge with diapause — a fancy word that means that they are adults, but their reproductive gear isn’t fully developed. Instead of breeding, late summer Monarchs are designed for long-distance travel. To prepare, they store up large amounts of fat. This fat reserve sustains them on their journey to Mexico. Breeding Monarchs live anywhere from 2-5 weeks, but late-summer migratory Monarchs are really special — they will live up to 9 months.
A Monarch that emerges in Williamsport in August or September will likely be one of these migratory Monarchs, and it will begin its journey south as the days begin to shorten. When they arrive in central Mexico, millions of them will hang out in the trees for the winter.
In March, tens of millions of Monarchs will begin their journey north. At the same time, their reproductive gear will finally engage, and before long they will breed, lay eggs, and then expire. The next generation will then emerge and continue the migration north. These new Monarchs are ready to breed, so they will travel north for a few weeks, breed, lay eggs, and then expire. The next generation will keep the process going, and by June, the Monarchs will arrive back in Williamsport. So get this — the Monarchs that arrive in June are the great, great grandchildren of the Monarchs that left the previous September. So how did they know where they were going?
Scientists have no explanation for this amazing phenomenon other than instinct. Instinct is defined as a powerful impulse that feels natural rather than reasoned. Monarchs do what they do because that’s what they were designed to do. They don’t have to think about it; they just do it.
And that brings me back to my original purpose in writing this article: worship. We, humans, were designed to worship. It’s instinctive. The desire to worship comes to us naturally. It can’t be reasoned because the desire to worship makes as much sense as the impulse a newly emerged Monarch feels to head south. It doesn’t need reason; it is drawn southward. And my friends, we are drawn to worship God.
What is worship? It is the realization that the end of all things is not found in us. It is our instinctive understanding that there is something greater than us — something that loves us and has designed us for a very special purpose — something we must humble ourselves before. We feel it; we know it; it is as natural to us as breathing — because we were made to worship.
In Romans 14:11 we read, “Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.” That verse is a clear statement of design. I’ll say it again: We were made for worship.
So why bring this up at Christmas? For this simple reason: If you are not worshipping God, then you are living outside of your intended design. And my friend — that may explain why life is frustrating. Imagine for a moment what would happen to a Monarch if it decided to fly north in August. Going against its intended design would result in one frustrating experience after another — and it wouldn’t end well. Friend, when we resist or go against our intended design, we suffer.
This year, I’m going to cut out a picture of a Monarch butterfly and hang it on our Christmas tree — a Christmas Monarch. I want it to remind me that I was designed by God to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. May God bless you with a very Merry Christmas!