Not long after I became a Christian, my wife (whom I was dating at the time) had a conversation with an LSU football player at a meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. He happened to be a fraternity brother of mine, although I didn’t know him very well. LSU football players tended to live in a world apart from the rest of the student body, even if they belonged to fraternities.
She told him she was dating a fraternity brother of his, and he asked who it was, likely expecting to hear of one of the many Christians in our fraternity. When she said my name, his face registered shock.
He didn’t know me very well, either. But he likely knew of me. And we hadn’t talked since I had become a Christian. Still…
The fact is that I must have had some kind of reputation, although it wasn’t entirely bad.
I was the fraternity go-to guide when a pledge needed tutoring in English.
I was the guy for pledges and actives alike to go to read their papers on Faulkner’s story “Barn Burning” or Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Browne” (I can’t abide to read either to this very day).
I was the soft-touch active who the pledges would come to during initiation week for counsel and a shoulder to cry on, and the one who would leave a pack cigarettes in a desk drawer for the pledges to smoke (it was verboten during initiation week unless an active gave you permission).
So, you may ask, why would that cause shock on the fraternity brother’s face?
Well, the fraternity was roughly and evenly divided between the Christians and – the pagans.
I had not been part of the Christian half.
I was the guy who consumed most of a quart of bourbon at football parties (shared with my date, of course).
I was the guy who was first in line at the jungle juice parties.
I was the guy who would dance on the ledge a big brick planter in the recreation room during parties.
I was the guy known for dancing the heel off his shoe at a fraternity party.
I was the guy who led the party crowd in the rousing “Fish Cheer” by Country Joy & the Fish (it was a Woodstock thing – screaming the f-bomb at the top of your lungs).
So – the report of the shocked look hurt – but I couldn’t say it was unjustified.
So what happened to the party animal?
“I don’t understand the process,” says Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace, “but I know the word for it. It is metamorphosis. That five-syllable, ‘eight-cylinder’ word is used to describe what happens when a caterpillar spins a hard cocoon around itself and some days later emerges as a butterfly.”
It’s the same word that Paul uses to describe “the spiritual transformation in the life of the Christian,” Bridges says.
And that’s what had started happening to me. The fraternity brother knew about the moth. My girlfriend saw the butterfly emerging.
It’s a good word. And an apt one.