Sunday, October 3, 2010
Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? I read an inspirational book about it last week. A man named Edward Lorenz introduced this theory to describe how tiny variations can affect giant and complex systems, like weather patterns. He suggested that a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the earth could trigger a chain of repercussions on wind strength and movements throughout the world's weather systems, and theoretically, could cause a tornado on the other side of the earth. What I found through my bit of research is that the butterfly effect remains a theory, but longterm accurate weather prediction is impossible because of millions of tiny variations that affect the outcome. The point of the book was to show how the butterfly effect applies to human lives and history. The story was told of a teacher named Joshua Chamberlain who became a Union colonel in the Civil War. His regiment was commanded to hold a certain hill during the battle of Gettysburg. After holding off the Rebels numerous times and taking significant losses, the Union soldiers saw the Confederates again returning to attack, this time with reinforcements. Chamberlain's men were virtually out of ammunition and had no one to come to their aid. The commanders of several nearby regiments had been killed. It seemed a hopeless situation. Chamberlain was faced with a decision. He had no previous military or tactical experience. All he had was a tenacious determination to suceed or die trying. He determined he would not die with a bullet in his back. There would be no retreat. This is what he said in that moment in the balance..."When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act." He then commanded his men to charge with their bayonets. The startled Confederate soldiers assumed they were being met by a reinforced army. No defeated army would charge. The Rebels panicked, many dropping their loaded weapons, turned, and ran. In a matter of moments the opposing commander had surrendered to Chamberlain. It was later determined that had Chamberlain failed to hold his position, Gettysburg would have fallen. And if Gettysburg had fallen, the consensus is that the North would have lost the war. In which case many believe that America today would be a land of divided territories, like Europe. Thus there would have been no nation big enough, wealthy enough, or strong enough to conquer both Hitler and Japan during World War 2. And the repercussions go on and on. Another illustration. Some years ago, a man was honored for saving billions of lives by creating a hybrid corn seed that flourishes in dry climates. However, this man's success attributes to one of Franklin Roosevelt's vice presidents, who commissioned him to find a solution to the food shortage. The vice president, in turn, (whose name i cannot recall), had been influenced as a young boy by George Washington Carver, who discovered hundreds of uses for the peanut and the sweet potato, among other accomplishments. Carver was able to make such contributions to our world because his life was saved by a farmer named Moses who lived in the South during the time of slavery but did not condone slavery. After marauders ransacked his farm, carrying off an African woman and her baby, Moses and his wife managed to made a deal with the robbers and recovered the baby boy. They gave him their name and raised him as their son. But you could go on and on. In the end, who truly can received the credit for saving all those lives? And that is only one example of a difference made to preserve life. Think of it! Your life has the same opportunity to affect great things, even out of seemingly insignificant choices. It's an incredible idea, isn't it? But it's true! Think of the very first followers of Christ and the way their commitment to Him turned the world upside down. Think of all the martyrs throughout history whose blood has been the seed that causes the church to grow and flourish. Think of those who painstakingly preserved the Scriptures, or those who faithfully labored to win souls among even the remotest people on earth. Think of the difference each life has made with their choices. Imagine how your life could affect the world generations after you are gone. Take the time to look at your opportunities in this light. Every day we are faced with situations where we must choose to do something or do nothing. Some we call major, most we see as inconsequential. But are they? Is there any such thing as action without consequence? Even inaction produces its own consequences. Lost opportunities. What ifs. Regrets. What would God do with a person who passionately believes that his or her everyday life makes a difference? Let's be like Joshua Chamberlain. Come what may, let us always choose to act.