I’ve always found the butterfly effect intriguing: the idea that the mere flap of a butterfly’s wing in, say, Des Moines could start a chain reaction leading to a devastating tsunami in Sr Lanka; or, for that matter, to the miraculous circumvention of one.
But it also happens on a personal level. A few nights ago I was talking with a friend Colleen after our writers group meeting. I was in the midst of explaining my current project when Fran approached. Colleen greeted her. I gave Fran a cursory nod, then jerked Colleen’s attention back to mine so I could finish my narrative. I didn’t want to lose my train of thought (which is at the cosmic core of all that matters) by sailing off to the island of Smalltalk, or by pausing to give Fran an abridgment and, once again, risk watching my train of thought leave the station without me. Reasonable, right?
God didn’t think so. At bedtime, he reminded me of the incident.
“So I screwed up, huh?”
According to the personal butterfly effect, my small (if there is such a thing) inconsideracy could be the final blow to Fran’s faith in humanity, leading her to become a cold-blooded killer. Or (less facetiously) to her becoming more jaded, increasing the dearth of tolerance on our compassion-depleted planet. Fran’s graciousness will undoubtedly counter the worst effects of my thoughtlessness. But I’ve learned not to underestimate the nexus of wing flaps.
When I was a self-absorbed teenager (is there any other kind?) I accidentally swang a golf club back and broke my cousin Larry’s nose. Thirty-two years later, at (ironically) a Thanksgiving dinner, Larry stunned the family by announcing that he had never forgiven me. Not for injuring him, but for so quickly excusing my actions (“I didn’t know you were there!”) instead of showing real concern. This, he said, was why he found it hard to hear about the loving God I so frequently praised. If I was the product of that kind of God, he wanted nothing to do with Him.
Wing flap in Des Moines = Tsunami in Sri Lanka.
The family came to my rescue: “He didn’t mean it!” “It was twenty years ago!” “You were just kids!” “Let it go!”
But God didn’t. He whispered, “Fix this.”
So I begged my cousin’s forgiveness. One long overdue reverse wing flap. Did it help? I don’t know. I remember the way his eyes searched mine for telltale twitches of insincerity. And then the way his eyes softened.
Less than a year later, he passed away. I pray often that he is with the God I so poorly represented. The one who said, “Fix this.”
Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (or justice).” For the longest time I thought this meant, “Work to restore God’s reign over this shattered world.” And it does. But it also means, “Seek first to let him reign over me.” The second part of the verse reads, “And all these things will be added to you.” The key word is added. The original Greek refers not to rewards for good behavior, but the results of the actions we take. Wing flaps.