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Thread: The Butterfly Effect

  1. #1
    Follower of Christ cmnahrwold's Avatar
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    Feb 2008

    The Butterfly Effect

    The phrase the butterfly effect is used in chaos theory to describe the small initial conditions that can affect the eventual outcome of a large dynamic system. Or in other words it is a way to describe how small seemingly insignificant acts can have a profound impact on the “big picture”. On a fundamental level, a good example is to picture a small ball at the top of a hill. The ball can be aimed in different directions by slightly changing the angle at which the ball is released to travel down the hill. Each small change in the angle (initial conditions) leads to a different place where the ball ends up at the bottom of the hill (eventual outcome). Another example is to picture an asteroid. The travel of asteroids can be difficult to predict. This is because there are many gravitational pulls that can affect the asteroids course, including the pull from the sun, planets, and even other asteroids. On a more personal level, think about the course of a child. Think of the profound impact from being born into a family in which basic needs are met, or from the gentle touch of a father, or from the chance to interact with someone who builds them up on a daily basis. Now think of that child who is born into poverty, does not have a father or father figure, or who has no one that builds them up on daily basis. It is clear that the initial conditions have a significant impact on the eventual outcome of a large dynamic system.

    I can remember in the fifth grade an encounter with my teacher. Before this encounter, I would consider my performance in school as average. I believe at the time I was under-performing because I would rather have fun during class discussion and seldom put considerable effort into homework. Then one day my teacher took me aside and told me that I had the potential to make the honor roll if I put effort into school. This small conversation had such an impact on my life. From that day, I decided to put effort into school. I not only made honor roll that year, but for the rest of my high school and college years. Can you remember a time as a child that shaped your life in meaningful way?

    I can also remember when I became a “born again” Christian. I was invited to a Colts game that was shown at church on a Monday night. Later on that night I was invited over for dinner at a Pastor’s home later on that week. These two seemly insignificant details led to a major shift in my life. A week or so later I gave my life over to God, by putting my faith into Jesus Christ for my eternal life.

    Later on that same year at my baptism, a complete stranger was dropping off Christian newsletters at a church. He witnessed the baptism going on, and decided to stay for a while. At the end of that service, I got to meet that stranger, and because of his kindness invited him for a cup of coffee. He since then has become one of the best friends I have ever had, and a great mentor in the Christian faith. I cannot imagine what path I would be on right now if he would have decided that he was too busy to stay for the remainder of that service.

    I remember praying to God to give me at least one chance to share the Gospel with someone that year. A few months later, I was working with a gentleman in his hospital room, and he asked me about Jesus. I also received a software package from a friend that same year in which I could easily look up bible passages, bible dictionaries, and commentary. This random act of kindness led to this blog and to the eventual sharing of the Gospel with thousands of people.

    Can you remember a seemingly insignificant detail in your life that eventually changed your life forever? Perhaps these small details are actually gifts from God.

    As a Christian I believe that we have a chance to have a profound impact on the world around us. As the world around us falls deeper and deeper into evil, it is our chance to change this momentum. As we take the time to love others around us (initial conditions), this may lead to the opportunity to bring people to Christ (eventual outcome). Whatever we do, let it be for God’s purposes, to build His spiritual kingdom.

    Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mark 9:41)

    Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

    Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12)

  2. #2
    Thanks very much for sharing this, Chris!

    It was warm to share your personal experience and then invite the reader to think of theirs.

    I can relate to your teacher experience, where I had a printing teacher (Larry Cain) who took a moment, who told me I excelled at printing and as a result, I have been in printing mostly on and off since the age of 16. Merely a one sentence comment, gave me a sense of purpose and worth that dramatically shaped my life.

    Since then, I look for opportunities to provide those one sentence injections in other people's lives. Like a "pay it forward."

    Mark 9:41 was the perfect closing Scripture to include. Inspired message!

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