Heron on the Taunton River, Sullivan, Maine
This little heron presents us with a visual metaphor. We often feel helpless and vulnerable in the chaotic, confusing sea of geopolitical messes, pandemic crises, inconceivable violence, and moral decline in our world, but this awkward appearing bird emanating ripples from the center of its personal microcosm as it carefully and quietly searches for its dinner speaks a truth to us.
Our personal impact on the small world around us, even in the more mundane moments, is powerful. Words, attitudes, efforts, and behaviors can diminish or encourage those who seek our approval. Similarly, we remember kindnesses, affirmations, encouragements, gentle exhortations and commendations, but we also hang onto negativity directed at us. We nurse snide remarks, verbal abuse, being ignored, and gossipy character assassinations. Apologies may be made and forgiveness sought, but words and actions can’t be retrieved and may evolve into resentments.
As approval seekers, we self-evaluate by others’ criteria. Our minds are bombarded and molded daily by a wide variety of conflicting and confusing cultural, subliminal messages as well as by overt, intentional persuasions of family, friends, teachers, writers, musicians, social media, news casters, religious leaders, and politicians, all of whom have opinions and points of view!
Popular music frequently mirrors real life stories and insights into “our ripple effect.” In her song “I’m everything I am/ Because you loved me”, Celine Dion reinforced the great importance of encouraging, supporting, and loving those about us. Ray Boltz’s “Thank you for giving” broadens that kind of power to a much wider circle than we might imagine. The setting of his song is heaven where he is walking with his friend. People unknown to his friend approach and thank his friend for how he had influenced their lives as he lived out the graces of the Gospel. “One by one they came/Far as the eyes could see/Each life somehow touched/ By your generosity/Little things that you had done/ Sacrifices made/Unnoticed on the earth/In heaven now proclaimed.” Each came with the same message; “Thank you for giving to the Lord/I am a life that was changed/Thank you for giving to the Lord/I am so glad you gave.”
There is no better motivator for grace than the Gospel. There is no better mirror than Scripture where we can ascertain who we truly are–broken but valuable before Holy God, who in extreme love offers us redemption despite our faults, evil desires, and bad behaviors. Scripture reveals that wisdom for this earthly life begins by revering God, that His principles guide our journeys, that Jesus is the light of the World, and that we should walk as he did and be imitators of God, who gives us His righteousness through faith and empowers us to be gracious and to live a life of love and generosity.
If those ideas become more than theory, if they become a reality, some pretty nice “ripples” will be generated even when one isn’t trying!