“Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” This question was posed by meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, half a century ago when trying to simply explain a complex mathematical concept known as, The Butterfly Effect. In essence, The Butterfly Effect teaches us small changes have profound effects, and this process can be identified throughout nature, human behavior, and weather patterns. When I first heard this concept, I was fascinated how easy it is for us as we look back on our lives and see how small decisions have led us to our greatest blessings, and conversely, how very difficult it is to see our small efforts having an impact day-to-day.
The adversary is fond of telling us not to set out on new endeavors unless we have everything we need to succeed, and have the confidence to execute things perfectly. He tells us that large, sweeping changes are the only kind that matter, and that we had better get it right the first time if we’re going to do it at all. He convinces us the idea of perfection, and the idea of almost-perfect, are really good friends, when in fact, perfection is the unattainable road block to success. Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Perfection, as an idea, dictates we wait for the perfect spouse before marriage, we delay children until we can easily afford them, we delay apologies, dreams, and Godly change, because we don’t have all the answers.
However, perfection was attained in this life by only one, Jesus Christ. Although we strive to be as He is, we cannot be perfected without Him. In the New Testament we read:
“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”James 1:3-4
Our lifelong efforts require a lifetime of patience with ourselves. That means using the healing strength of His atonement to strengthen us as we go down strange new roads. It means yoking ourselves to Him when we set out to do something hard, and we don’t have everything we need. As we chart our way through life, what matters most is our direction. What matters most are our daily efforts to become a little better, even if some days we fail. It’s having faith and trust that with the Lord”s help, all things will work together for your good. There is power in imperfect trying. That is Patience’s perfect work.
A butterfly’s wings create a figure eight flourish that gives it the lift and thrust that enable it to migrate 3,000 miles each year. This happens with a lot of effort, a little at a time. God knew the butterfly would need to travel farther than we may see as being necessary, and He knows the paths we find ourselves on are often longer, and more unexpected than we planned. He knows how to navigate each twist full of pain, and every turn that leaves us confused, and lost. He has practiced helping others for thousands of years during their mortal journeys, and He is ever-waiting to come to our aid as well.
He knows the way home.
As the Chinese Proverb suggests, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In Alma 37:6, we read,
“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”
My eldest child is 18, and leaves for college next week. She is so much smarter than I was, but 18 is still 18. There are things she cannot know because she hasn’t experienced them yet. Will she get enough sleep? Eat the right foods? Date the right boys, and study enough? Will she be able to navigate life on her own during a worldwide pandemic? I don’t know. I cannot know. I remember those years of sleepless nights, diaper changes and endless dishes, the late-night talks, and the lullabies. I also remember crying and wondering if these seemingly unimportant steps in her life would really matter. I wondered if my bad days would cancel out the good days I had as a mother, and I wondered if I was wasting my life and talents in serving this tiny human. It was so hard to see the day she would need the wings I was weaving her.
Now the day has come, and sake’s alive, can my daughter fly! More than that, she knows to turn to her Father in Heaven and Savior when she needs help along her journey, as she inevitably will. You know what I discovered? Every diaper counted. Every dish I washed mattered. Every rocking lullaby lives inside her still. My small, consistent efforts had a profound, and lasting effect. And so do yours. Keeping moving forward. Your daily efforts matter. It has always mattered, and it always, always, always will.