“We were like two ships passing in the night.” This is a metaphoric expression, often used when two people have a short, chance, passing encounter. Often only a few words are exchanged. The two individuals separate, continue on their way, and often never see each other again. As Christians, should we be concerned about the butterfly effect of our encounters? Absolutely we should! Please read more.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem The Theologian’s Tale. The following lines come from that poem.
“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”
A quick literary analysis of the lines in this poem suggests that the two ships left no lasting impact on each other. Is the same true when people meet? When we have random encounters do we leave a lasting impact on each other? I believe we do.
I stopped to ponder this question this week when I heard the news of the death of someone I had briefly met. I sought help from a young physical trainer in 2017 to find appropriate exercises that might help with my MS. We only met for one hour. Our conversation turned to our faith in Jesus Christ. The hour passed quickly without any discussion of exercise. Just a few days later, he suffered a brain aneurism. We never did get back together. He died this past week. He left a wife and a young child.
Can these short, seemingly chance encounters, leave a lasting impact? If we believe in the butterfly effect then we must believe they can. What exactly is the butterfly effect?
The butterfly effect, is a concept put forward by meteorologist Edward Lorenz in 1960. The idea is that small changes in a big system can cause long lasting complex results. The concept is often described as a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil and causing a hurricane in Texas. Of course, the single act of the butterfly flapping its wings cannot cause a hurricane. The point, however, is that small actions can and do leave a lasting impact.
Benjamin Franklin stated the same this this way:
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
I believe the “Butterfly Effect” exists in every aspect of our spiritual life. We all learned as little children that our actions have consequences, and they do. Sin also leaves a lasting butterfly effect. What we do, or fail to do, can leave a major impact on someone else’s life and this impact might be bad or good. We are often blind to the lasting impact we make.
History teaches us that human actions have consequences. Certain choices, once made, cannot be undone. One person can impact millions. Contrast the lasting impact of Adolf Hitler to that of Mother Teresa. Ignorance about the lasting impact and consequences of our actions does not free us from our responsibility for them. Therefore, our Christian actions should always be intentional. Everything we do should bring others closer to Christ.
We read in John6:9 that a little boy offered his five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus and Jesus used the boy’s small act of kindness to feed a crowd estimated to be over 15,000. But the consequences of his actions did not stop there. Over two thousand years later all Christians know about the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The crowd might have gone hungry that day if the boy had not come forward to give all he had to Jesus. Our knowledge of that story is part of the butterfly effect of his actions.
Let me go back to my encounter with the physical trainer. We enjoyed a deep and meaningful conversation about our love for Jesus during our one meeting. We discussed the possibility of getting together once a month to talk more about faith issues. That opportunity never presented itself. Like a vapor or a puff of smoke he was here and gone. I am glad for the conversation we had. I have no idea how our conversation impacted him over the last year and a half. It impacted me and that is why I am writing about it today.
Today, and every day for the rest of your life, you will encounter many people. Will your encounters be intentional? Will people know, as you pass them like two ships passing in the night, about your love for Jesus Christ and His love for you? I’ll leave you with this final question. What will the butterfly effect of your life be?
Heavenly Father, Jesus taught me to love You with all of my heart, soul and mind. He also taught me to love others as myself. In all I do, and with everyone I meet, help me to leave the butterfly effect of your love and mercy. Amen!
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