Arrows & Butterflies

“Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them.
Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’
He struck it three times and stopped.” (2 Kings 13:18)

Derek Prince famously titled his book, Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting. But what does that mean? It means you are part of a powerful series of events, and you cannot possibly fathom the extended consequences and connections of these events, but they are real, nonetheless. In his book, The Butterfly Effect, Andy Andrews offers shocking, tangible insight into this reality. It starts with Edward Lorenz, who in 1963 presented his radical hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science that:

“Butterfly in Motion” by fotonut2007 (CC)

“A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air – eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.”

Lorenze and his ridiculous ideas were literally laughed out of the conference. Imagine their shock and surprise when, more than 30 years later, the “butterfly effect” was proven and, accordingly, given the status of the Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions. In fact, science has since shown this effect to engage with the first movement of any form of matter – including people. Now pause and consider the story Andrews unfolds as proof of the butterfly effect in history. We’ll work in reverse, beginning April 2, 2004. On that day, ABC News honored 91-year old Norman Borlaug as their Person of the Week. Who in the world is Norman Borlaug and why does he matter? Andrews tells the tale:

“Despite our unfamiliarity, Norman Borlaug is a man who is personally responsible for drastically and dramatically changing the world in which we live. You see, in the early 1940s, Norman Borlaug hybridized high-yield, disease-resistant corn and wheat for arid climates. (Across the world) Borlaug’s specific seed product flourished and regenerated where no seed had ever thrived before. It has now been calculated that Norman Borlaug’s work saved more than two billion lives from famine.”

But then comes the twist, because Andrews maintains that Norman Borlaug didn’t really save those two billion people. Actually, it was Henry Wallace, the second Vice President of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt, and a former Secretary of Agriculture. As Vice President, he wielded his power to create a station in Mexico whose sole purpose was to hybridize corn and wheat for arid climates, and hired a young man named Norman Borlaug to run it. Norman Borlaug went on to win the Nobel Prize…but considering the connection, it was really Henry Wallace that saved two billion people, right? Or was it George Washington Carver, the peanut guy? Huh?

“Here’s something that very few people know: When Carver was 19 years old and a student at Iowa State University, he had a Dairy Sciences professor who, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, would allow his six-year-old boy to go on “botanical expeditions” with the brilliant student. It was George Washington Carver who took that boy and instilled in him a love for plants and a vision for what they could do for humanity. It was George Washington Carver who pointed six-year-old Henry Wallace’s life in a specific direction – long before he ever became Vice President of the United States.”

“Amazing to contemplate, isn’t it? George Washington Carver flapping his butterfly wings with the peanut…And while no one was even looking, flapped his wings a couple of times with a six-year-old boy…(saving) the lives of more than two billion people.”

Are you seeing the ripples of consequence? But it doesn’t stop. What about Moses, the farmer from Diamond, Missouri? You see, though this guy named Moses lived in a slave state, he didn’t support slavery. This made him a target for radical groups like Quantrill’s Raiders who terrorized the area, destroying property, burning and killing. When the Raiders rode through Moses’ farm one cold January night, they dragged off a woman named Mary Washington who refused to let go of her infant son, George. Moses’ wife, Susan, was a friend of Mary Washington, so she promptly set about contacting nearby farms and two days later managed to secure a time for her husband to meet with the bandits and make an exchange. Her husband rode off into the night, heading several hours toward a crossroad in Kansas. There, Moses met the bandits alone. They carried torches and wore flour sacks tied over their heads with holes cut out for their eyes. The weary, frightened farmer traded his only horse for what the outlaws threw him in a dirty burlap bag.

“As the bandits thundered off on their horses, Moses fell to his knees and there, alone on that dark winter night, the farmer pulled from the bag a cold, naked, almost-dead baby boy. Quickly he jerked open his own coat and his shirt and placed the child next to his skin. Covering him with his own clothes and relying on the warmth from his own body, the man turned and walked that baby home.

“Moses walked through the night and into the next morning to get the child to Susan. There, they committed to that tiny human being – and to each other – that they would care for him. They promised the boy an education to honor his mother, Mary, who they knew was already dead. That night, they gave the baby their own name…and that is how Moses and Susan Carver came to raise that little baby, George Washington.

“So when you think about it, maybe it was the farmer from Diamond, Missouri, who saved the two billion people. Or was it his wife? Or…is there even an ending to this story? Exactly who was it that saved the two billion lives?”

On and on it goes. Andrews closes with a poignant question: How far forward would we need to go in your life to show the difference you make? Generations yet unborn will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Every single thing you do matters. Every prayer you pray…matters. You may feel your prayers are weak little butterflies, yet storms may be stirred by their movement. Do not shrink back from praying them, from striking the ground until victory comes. You do not have to know or comprehend every stage of the butterfly effect for it to be real in the spirit. Just dare to believe and continue to pray. Shift a generation. Let the tale be told in heaven of your deeds.

Adapted from The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters by Andy Andrews (Thomas Nelson)

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