THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING CATERPILLAR.
Annie Dillard, in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, talks about a strange habit some caterpillars have. Now caterpillars do something called "molting." They shed the hard shell-like skin that covers their heads and bodies. After molting, their bodies immediately get bigger, and they grow another outer skin. As they continue to eat and grow, they'll continue to shed their skin as many as twelve times-sometimes even more.
Sometimes, though, when a caterpillar doesn't get enough food, it will go into a "molting frenzy." It begins molting over and over again, changing its skin many times, getting smaller and smaller with every change. This process, says Dillard, "could, in imagination, extend to infinity, as the creature frantically shrinks and shrinks and shrinks to the size of a molecule, then an electron, but never can shrink to absolute nothing and end its terrible hunger."
That doesn't happen, of course. Eventually, the caterpillar stops molting and dies.
That "incredible shrinking caterpillar" is a perfect picture of what can happen without self-control. Caterpillars have to molt. In fact, molting is a good thing for a caterpillar. But when the process gets out of control, it can destroy the little creature.
That's what a lack of self-control can do to people, too. A lack of self-control can turn harmless (even healthy) things into harmful things. For example, you need food in order to stay healthy. But if you constantly eat too much food, it can be harmful.
Or, to use another example, exercise is a good thing. Your body needs exercise. But if your desire to be healthy, strong, and thin gets out of control, you can actually hurt yourself with exercise and dieting.
The Bible puts it like this: "A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls" (Proverbs 25:28). God desires for us to be self-controlled because he knows that it can make us healthier and happier, safer and stronger. Because he loves us, his commands to "be self-controlled" (1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8) are intended to help us live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life.
REFLECT: Do you ever feel like an "incredible shrinking caterpillar"? Do you ever feel like something in your life is out of control? If so, do you ever talk to somebody about it? Why or why not? Do you think it would help to talk to somebody when you feel that way? Do you think it would help to talk to God? to your parents? to a friend? to a pastor? If so, why not make plans to do so?
PRAY: "Lord, sometimes I do feel 'as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls' But I really want to learn self-control from you so you can make me healthier, happier, safer, and stronger. Please show me the areas where I most need your loving attention."