Did you know that a butterfly fluttering its wings in the Amazon could spawn a hurricane in Texas? A meteorologist discovered this phenomenon while conducting computer simulations on weather patterns. He found that the tiniest change in the position of his variables completely threw off his calculations. Therefore, he reasoned, the slightest action in one part of the world could affect life in other parts of the world.
Sharing our stories can have the same result with time.
My dad was a storyteller. Among my treasured possessions is a 3-ring binder filled with articles about the USS Murray, the destroyer on which he served in World War II. As I scan its pages, I still hear his voice. I hear him reveal how he lost most of his hearing in one ear. “Someone spotted the enemy and sounded general quarters. I ran to the artillery gun my buddy and I manned. Unfortunately, he fired before I could put on my protective headgear. I couldn’t hear anything for a week.”
I hear him chuckle as he recounts how he earned the handmade “achievement medal” he fingered in a box of souvenirs. “Yeah, my buddies made it for me after I arrived first … in the chow line … every meal.”
And I hear him describe the naval tradition for teaching seamen to swim. “Some guys enlisted, attracted by the Navy’s motto, ‘Join and see the world.’ They couldn’t swim a stroke but needed to know how. Their lives would depend on it if we were torpedoed and forced to abandon ship. So, in the middle of the ocean, we tossed meat off port side to attract the sharks while we threw those who couldn’t swim off starboard. They learned. Fast.”
Each story unearthed another piece of history that shaped him into the son, brother, husband and father he became. My father told and retold his memories as if to say, “Take note. This is important.” In turn, each one influenced my perspective about things like patriotism, friendship, family, teamwork and the necessity of a sense of humor when life turns down unexpected paths or blind alleys.
This week, the need to capture and pass on personal stories kept surfacing — in both my conversations with friends and words that jumped off the pages of a book or newspaper article.
I’ve seen this pattern before. A series of events enveloping the same message. It’s God’s voice piercing my thoughts. This time, He reminds me our lives are scenes in an important story. They form the sequel to the Book of Acts and the prequel to the Book of Revelation.
Each story is a butterfly whose fluttering wings today may spawn a hurricane-like impact in future generations. As the hymn proclaims, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing … pass it on.”
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you like down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NIV).