The Ripple Effect
Passage: Galatians 6:1-10
Key Verse: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (v.7 – NASB)
My parents and I were reminiscing about my childhood this past week. We talked about the numerous activities that my siblings and I were involved in besides school. Mom repeated a sentence that I heard several times before: “Our inheritance to you is the investment we made in your education.” Indeed it is true; I have always been very aware of the major sacrifices that my parents made to be able to put three children through the best school in town, language studies, music lessons, sports, etc. I am undeniably forever grateful for the legacy they gave me in that respect. But what I think parents do not always realize is that each investment they make in their children’s lives has the potential to impact the lives of many more people, for decades, even centuries to come.
I call it the Ripple Effect (and yes, I know that is not an original term, but please bear with me).
You throw a pebble in the lake and watch the ripples forming around it: First, a tiny circle where the stone was thrown. As the seconds go by, the ripples become wider and wider. If the stone is a bit larger, the ripples may even reach the edge of a large lake. What started with one single action eventually affects the large body of water. One. Single. Stone.
In practical terms, it’s pretty easy to evaluate the results of certain decisions parents make. I, for instance, would not be sitting at a desk in my American home, had my parents not decided to say yes to their 10 year-old’s dream to learn how to speak English fluently. That’s pretty easy to see. But if we look a bit further into my past, we would see a loving uncle, who was an ESL teacher in Brazil, inviting his favorite niece to record some lessons for his pupils, because she had a “good ear” for English pronunciation. I was only eight then. So the ripple, in my case, did not start with my parents’ willingness to let me study English. It did not even start with me. It started with a sweet uncle, who encouraged a self-conscious eight year old to believe in herself. Thus, here I am, over three decades later, writing in that beloved language, enjoying life in this wonderful country that I now call home. And I can guarantee you that my uncle never thought that the little pebble which he threw in the lake of my life would generate such large and lasting ripples.
Truth being told, we throw little pebbles into people’s lives every day, whether we realize it or not. And it does not matter whether you are in your 20’s, 40’s or in your 80’s; if you are alive and breathing, God is not done using you to impact the lives of those around you. Whether it is your children, grand-children, nieces and nephews, or even your elderly parents, you are touching lives every day. Every small gesture that you make, every helping hand that you extend, every time you take time to encourage someone, you are throwing pebbles in the lake of their lives. You’re impacting their lives in small and big ways. What seems to be a small gesture has the potential to help (or ruin) someone’s future forever. Because, you see, you don’t know who little John will become one day. For all we know, he could be the man who finds the cure for cancer. Or little Martha could be a missionary who will bring thousands to Christ when she grows up. And if you took the time to be the hands and feet of Jesus to them; if more than simply reading Bible stories, they watched you live for Him through the good and the difficult times; if they watched you stand firm by your convictions when your friends compromised, they will remember. I promise you.
The ripple effect. What a beautiful, yet sobering picture. One gesture, potentially changing the world. I invite you to remember this mental image the next time you are tempted to think that what you do for someone is not important. Or the next time you think “I’m too old to do anything that counts.” Or the next time you have a stone of criticism, anger or judgment to throw into your neighbor’s lake. Remember the ripple effect and reject the idea that what you do is not important. Because as small as a gesture may seem, it has the potential to impact people’s lives forever. And only in Heaven will we fully grasp how much.
“Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:12-14 (NLT)
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