the butterfly effect, bucket list reimagined #21, 100 Droplet Gifts, luminescent blue butterflies in a dark woods, small things big results, girl in gilded cage, Esther, David, Sama, Gideon, warrior in a winepress, baby in a manger, guy in a lentil field, Jesus, sparrows, praise of children, disaster, despise small things

The Butterfly Effect

Though I can’t confirm the science behind it, I do believe in a phenomenon termed the Butterfly Effect: The idea that small choices and changes can add up to destiny.

Chaos Theory posits that “something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” The tiniest of actions can influence the rest of your life—and you cannot control it.

Oh, we like to imagine we can. But don’t you think the Butterfly Effect is an apt metaphor for life in this chaotic world we live in today? “Who will despise the day of small things?” asks the prophet Zechariah (4:9).

Insignificant things, such as…

A bat in China… a wind in Spain… a flower in Mexico… a snowstorm in Chile… a young man’s dream, an old woman’s vision…

Small decisions can have very large effects. Small alterations, minor moves, can set in motion major transformations.

“Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were big things.” –Robert Brault

Warrior in a Wine Press

The boy with the five loaves and two fishes could have shrugged and eaten his measly lunch himself. Jesus’ disciples almost ignored him. What if the boy had said, like Andrew, “What are these for so many?” For starters, they fed 5000+ people (Jn. 6:1-14).

The entire Israelite army—even the king and his own brothers—mocked David’s shepherd’s sling and five little stones when he stepped out to challenge Goliath. But you know how that story ended too (I Sam. 17:42-47).

Then there’s Gideon, whom the Angel of the Lord addresses as “Hail, O Valiant Warrior” as he cringes in a wine press (Jud. 7:11-16). Sure, he’s working—in secret, in fear, in defeat. When God asks him to take on an assignment, he lists all his excuses: “Don’t you know what our country’s up against right now?…Um, my family aren’t exactly our tribe’s elite…And I’m the smallest, remember…”

Gideon’s world, like our own, seethed with turmoil and uncertainty. Yet God saw His chosen servant completely different from the way he viewed himself. In His goodness, God put in motion a plan to save the nation with only 300 willing men.

It’s so easy to throw up our hands and retreat. I’m nobody special, I can’t do anything. Not much, anyway.

But as a Chilean pastor friend retorts, “It’s true, I am nothing…by myself. Yet in the power of Christ’s grace, I will give all that I am.” I may be only one, but I am one. Though I cannot do everything, I can do something.

And today, I could spend this quarantine time building puzzles, baking brownies, and organizing files. All great ideas, too. But…I could also sit down and write through my doubts. You, too, could shut out the tumult and get busy doing whatever it is God’s called you to.

Droplet Gift #21:

I will aim for maximum impact. How or what that means is up to God, not me. Lest you scoff at this overweening ambition to change the world, remember the Butterfly Effect.

I’m not striving to bank a million dollars or collect a million followers on Facebook. I’ll just keep doing what I do. Even small people like me can wield the God-empowered influence of a butterfly’s wings.

 “Success in the eyes of God is simply faithfulness.” –Unknown

Girl in a Gilded Cage

The Butterfly Effect is really the ultimate What If: The party you almost didn’t go to, the college you almost didn’t attend… The trip you didn’t make, the words you didn’t say, the good deed you didn’t do, the book you didn’t write…

On the other hand, turn the question around: What about the gift you gave, the effort you made, the plane you missed, the man you married, the letter you sent, the time you went—when you wanted to stay home…

Or even, the time you faithfully worked at home when you wanted to go out.

What if the little slave girl, far from home in Syria, had feared to speak up about the great God she trusted in? What if, full of bitter resentment, she choked back those encouraging words to her mistress? Her kind, brave testimony made a world of difference to the leper, Captain Naaman (2 K. 5:1-3).

What if Queen Esther hadn’t won that beauty contest? With the grand prize of living shut up in a palace, terrified of her own husband. But her cousin Mordecai reminded her, “Who knows whether you are come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?” (Es. 4:4) God certainly moved in many circumstances of Esther’s life to set His woman in a position of influence at that precise moment.

And what if the King of Persia hadn’t suffered insomnia that fateful night? As they say, timing is everything. And what you and I do today can have far-reaching consequences, for good or evil. It can even change the course of history.

But in those few small moments, we have choices to make.

“Life is choices. Choices have consequences, so make the right choices.” –Unknown

Guy in a Lentil Field

In the chronicles of King David’s Mighty Men, we find the story of Shammah. His name means “famous, renowned,” but he was anything but, in the eyes of some. The “daring” exploit he’s known for: Defending a small plot of lentils (2 S. 23:11-12).

Say again? Maybe lentils are more popular now, but I’d never eaten them in my life until we arrived in Chile. They’re delicious, but to me this tale always sounded like converting my Grampie’s bean field into a strategic military position.

But I’m wrong. God can make us famous even through the fights that no one values. Let’s stand and defend the small places He gives us. If it’s His assignment, it is a stronghold of God, a crucial point on His map.

I also see here what I call the Sparrow Effect: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father… So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Mt. 10:29-31).

My friend, nothing is too small for God to notice.

Nothing too small to choose and use.

Or care about. Or reach. NOTHING.

“His eye is on the sparrow,” as the old hymn goes.

As we look around us, we’re always going to see more needs than resources, more enemies than valiant warriors, more small things than great. So what do we do? Throw in the towel, toss away our swords? Say we’re too tired to struggle anymore and it’s not worth it anyway?

No, we trust the One who sees the sparrow, that most ordinary of birds. We soar, we sing, we serve where God has placed us. Like the butterflies, we shimmer and shine, flit and flutter over our small field.

Baby in a Manger

The Butterfly Effect means I just keep doing whatever it is I do and leave the results to God. May it be said of me, like Mary of Bethany when she poured her best perfume out on Jesus’ feet: “She has done what she could” (Mk. 14:8).

Throughout history, God layers His mercy in the midst of disaster and judgment.  “…I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground” (Am. 9:9) He cares. He catches the stumbling strays and carries the hurting and weak.

Remember He doesn’t despise the small ones, and He touches “with healing in (His) wings” (Mal. 4:2). When Jesus’ enemies complained, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” Jesus answered, “Yes, have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants…(God) has prepared praise…?’” (Mt. 21:15-16) Small instruments—great sound effects.

Perhaps He understands because He once made himself tiny and helpless like us—the Babe of Bethlehem. Then the God-man “dwelt among us…full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). That “one solitary life” turned the world upside down.

 “A small positive vibration can change the entire cosmos.” –Unknown

And He is in control of every event on history’s unfolding timeline. I’m not trying to convince anyone that nothing sad or bad will ever happen to us. Nations are shaken, sparrows fall, yet God knows each one, sets our limits, designs our days and hours.

I can’t explain how the Butterfly Effect works. But I know it’s “not by might nor by power, but by (His) spirit” (Zech. 4:6). Small forces—great miracles.

Lord, don’t take me home…until I’ve done my small part to serve Your great kingdom.


  1. Diane, this is one your most powerful and inspiring posts yet. If you give me permission, I want to use your premise for my next meditation for my church. Thank you for wise words.

    1. By all means, please use it however you wish! Some of YOUR wisdom just may show up in my post next week 🙂

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