Could a butterfly flap its wings and start a hurricane on the other side of the earth? Preposterous! But this is exactly what Edward Lorenz proposed in 1963 to the New York Academy of Science: “A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air – eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet” (Andrews). Laughed out of the science conference, 30 years later Lorenz was vindicated by physics professors from around the world who agreed with his theory. Now accorded the status of a “law,” the “butterfly effect” is called “The Law of Sensitive Dependence upon Initial Conditions.”
Here’s a great real-world example of this effect. The act of one man affected every one of us. On July 2, 1863, a 34 year-old schoolteacher saved the Union in a battle at a small town named Gettysburg.
Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, the school teacher, guarded the far left edge of a line of 80,000 Union soldiers. If Chamberlain allowed the Confederate soldiers through, they would gain the high ground and be able to overrun the 80,000. After five charges by the Confederates, involving hand to hand combat, only half of Chamberlain’s soldiers remained. With almost no ammunition left for the Union soldiers, the Confederates prepared to mount their sixth charge. Chamberlain stood exposed on the top of a hill, turned to his men and shouted, “Fix bayonets!” His next command was “Charge!”
Shocked by the boldness of the Union men, many Confederates threw down their loaded weapons. The rebels were certain that these soldiers were reinforcements and not the same men. In less than five minutes Chamberlain declared to a Confederates captain, “You are my prisoner.” Within five more minutes, 400 Confederate soldiers had surrendered.
Historians tell us that if Chamberlain hadn’t charged on that day, the rebels would have won at Gettysburg and the South would have won the war by the end of the summer.
Here’s a quote from Chamberlain (who took a bullet in his belt buckle): “I knew I may die, but I also knew that I would not die with a bullet in my back. I would not die in retreat. I am, at least, like the Apostle Paul who wrote, ‘This one thing I do, I press toward the mark.’”
From the miraculous birth of George Washington Carver to biblical characters such as Gideon and King David to even you and me (!), MANY stories can be told of how single acts, and often SMALL acts, changed the course of lives and nations.
2 Peter 3:8 says that to God, “a day is like a thousand years.” To God each moment of time, no matter how infinitely small, can open the door to huge life changing power – even to the glory of God. Each moment can be the time that the butterfly might flap its wings and create a hurricane on the other side of the planet! Each flap of our wings matters all the way into eternity!
A related word of advice: Concentrate your efforts on what you can influence, NOT on what you’re concerned about. By so doing, you will expand your circle of influence. If you concentrate your efforts on what you’re concerned about, your circle on influence will shrink. Nevertheless, PRAY about all things!
Much information taken from “The Butterfly Effect” by Andy Andrews, which can be ordered from simpletruths.com.