The Butterfly Effect

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“Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek You be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.” (Psalm 69:6 ESV)

My daughter’s fascination with butterflies is just as strong as it has been since she was a little girl. I share her belief that their transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is spectacular. It demonstrates their strength and God’s creativity.

When she taught me about the “butterfly effect,” I was intrigued. It states that small things or changes on one part of a system, no matter how small, can have a huge effect on another one – like a ripple effect. The idea is that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings, could have a large impact halfway around the world.

According to my son, this is also known as the Chaos Theory.

When I read this verse in Psalms, I felt dismayed at the idea that I might cause someone else to stumble. I’ve never set out to cause harm to another person. Who does?

But, when I thought about the small, seemingly insignificant things I’m guilty of, I cringed at how easy it could be to harm those around me.

I wondered how many of us actually take time to consider the ramifications of our choices, words, and actions.

Sometimes our busy lives leave us feeling stretched to the limit. Chronic illness and pain magnify the pressures. We’re frazzled, exhausted, distracted, and impatient. We snap at family, friends, and co-workers before we have a chance to think about the cruel words pouring out of our mouths.

We may be quick to apologize, but the damage is done. We’re responsible for crushing and destroying another person’s hope, confidence, trust, and faith in their relationship with us. Maybe we’ve forgotten that we are our brother’s keeper, that we are to love one another, and that we must never be a stumbling block (Matthew 18:1-9; Matthew 22:35-41; John 13:34-36).

These little actions seem innocent enough (Song of Solomon 2:15), but they operate like rip currents – those dangerous and deadly currents below the surface of the water. Swimmers are often caught off guard and must fight to get out or have to get rescued because they can’t swim away.

When we speak or act unkind to others, we may not see an immediate reaction, but the damage has been done. Destructive seeds have been planted, and we are guilty of being responsible for the very things the Psalmist prayed against.

Prayer: Father, let us walk in wisdom, love, gentleness and kindness. Set a guard over our mouths and let everything we do come from hearts of love. Let us build each other up, and never tear each other down. Let our main focus be building Your kingdom. Let the world know that we are Your followers because of the love that we have for each other.

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