Have you heard of “The Butterfly Effect”? I was visiting my mom in Connecticut last summer, when I saw a slim book with this title on her table. Written by Andy Andrews, the story reveals the fifty-year-old scientific theory that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can move molecules of air able to start a hurricane.
Similarly, the first movement of any form of matter—including people—can start a similar chain reaction. To make his point, Andrews tells how Maine’s own Joshua Chamberlain, then a 34-year-old college professor, led a Civil War charge at Little Round Top that changed the history of the United States and ultimately the fate of the entire world. All from figuratively flapping his wings.
I came across this book again after my mom died in December. I packed it in a box, drove home, slid the package in my writing shed and promptly forgot about it. Cocooned in snow and grief, the only thing I felt like flapping this past winter was my arms in anger at God for not healing my mom, for discouragement that has weighed down my work as a writer, for the seeming futility of it all.
Why bother writing at all? The vulnerability and risk and effort felt like too much, especially with Mom no longer here to encourage me. I wanted to quit, to turn in my author badge and raise chickens or maybe grow tomatoes—something with a more predictable harvest. Have you ever felt like that? Like nothing you do really matters?
In Galatians 6:9, the apostle Paul writes, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Last week, I cleaned out my shed and saw Mom’s book. Re-reading this remarkable story, I wondered, was it really possible? Could my actions today—my little flap of writing wings—change the world?
My shed is one of the few spaces where I escape the noise and clutter of life. It is where I produce words that I hope will raise money for orphans and children with disabilities in memory of our daughter Ruth. I hadn’t been in my shed much since losing my mom, and it was filled with dirt and grime. But that day, as I swept and dusted, I found a walnut-sized box in the pocket of a long-forgotten bag. In it was a contract I’d written with myself nine years ago.
“I promise not to quit,” it said. “I promise not to give up. I promise to invest in myself. I promise to write, and I promise to keep writing no matter how hard it gets, no matter how many rejections I get, no matter how tired, or frustrated, or broke or broken I get. I promise to use my passion and my skill to tell the story no matter what.”
On the bottom I’d signed my name. After reading it, I folded the note and tucked it back inside the box. Then I saw the carving on front. It was a big, beautiful butterfly with outstretched wings. Seeing it was a holy affirmation that every little deed does matter. Every prayer, every hope, every dream. Instead of quitting, I’m going to keep flapping my wings in the hope of starting a humanitarian hurricane.
What about you? What part of this hurting world are you going to change? Let’s climb out of our cocoons of discouragement together and keep flapping.