Think Small

Day 22 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.

A forgotten butterfly, found on a walk.

In chaos theory, small changes in the initial stages of a pattern are believed to have large effects. One of the first metaphors describing this theory uses weather: a butterfly flapping its wings could set into motion a hurricane at a later time in a different place, thus it is called the butterfly effect. While this is a negative effect, small changes could also have a positive effect in distant times and places.

I often think of those moments when I know that, had I made a slightly different decision, life would have been quite different. Sometimes reflecting on those small changes can be helpful, other times they can become “if onlys” and best left to God’s redemption.

A small change now can affect our lives in the future. Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our life.” The ordinary, quotidian, seemingly small, details shape our lives. Even one small change could have a large impact.

While this might sound terrifying, it can also be encouraging.

Yellowstone National Park brought wolves back to the park in 1995 after an absence of 69 years. In reintroducing them, the wildlife specialists had no idea the sanctuary-creating cascade of events they were setting in motion. Here is a breath-taking 5-minute video that takes you through the amazing outcomes (turn off the Music for Dreaming > before watching):

Cultivating sanctuary is not about making big, complicated changes, but making the small, simple ones.

How do we know what change? Through prayer and listening to God’s word, to your heart and hopes, to those who love you and who share home-space with you. No large moves. No drastic changes. It’s the small change the Holy Spirit whispers to you through your longing, joy, or tears. It may not even seem that important, or it may seem too easy, but God’s grace and love and power shine through.

What is the smallest change you can make toward cultivating sanctuary?