From the moment of conception we cause a ripple.
Back then, we were just a tiny grain of sand. Some people don’t even consider that enough to break through the surface tension of life. But we do. Our existence causes a ripple through our mother’s life. Hopefully a father’s life. Brothers’ and sisters’ lives. Grandparents’ lives. Relatives. Teachers. Friends. Classmates. Strangers we treat well. Those we serve, expecting nothing in return. Boyfriends and girlfriends. Coworkers. Spouses and children. Our children's friends. Grandchildren. And that’s just the “average” person’s life. What about the people whose quotes, inventions, books, music, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, a lifetime of hard work in their field, have changed everything about our present day and continue inspiring us?
A human is conceived, breaking through the surface of time and the ripple spreads. Our impact doesn’t start when the PhD is earned or after the checklist is completed. Through no volition of our own, our impact begins ….at the beginning. Because we exist. And everything we do, not to mention our life, is like a stone thrown into the water. Through the surface of time. Our presence (or lack of), our actions (or inaction) are a quick blip breaking through the tension with a splash and sinking down into the past. But the ripples spread out. And every size stone does this. From the moment of conception, we affect someone else’s life deeply. We do not live or act in a vacuum.
This realization takes more intentionality than we often care to give our day. We wake up in the morning, greeting the fresh, glassy, new surface by tossing a handful of pebbles over our shoulder while watching the clock and meditating on tasks to be done.
But what if…
we make ourselves be present, choose a rock with deliberation and joyfully throw it into a day we can never get back, causing a ripple that will continue after we’ve turned our back and begun the walk home?
Each new day is a chance. Every human, regardless of location or status, wakes up with more power and responsibility than they realize. Then they are told they have. Good or bad, the ripple will spread. Because we are here. And small rocks make the same sort of ripples as large, splashy ones.
So what makes the best ripples? Being truly present. Taking control of our thoughts. Our habits. The way we speak to others. The smallest word, or action, can turn someone’s day, someone’s week, someone’s whole life around. Even when we don’t see it. And we know the reverse is also true.
As a parent with young children, this terrifies me because of my less than perfect example I set every single day. But here is the hope. And it’s a big hope: “I bow my knees before the Father...that according to the riches of his glory he may grant [me] to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in [my] inner being.” When I rely on that power, it becomes possible to “let [my] manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
In a youth obsessed culture, it’s a hard pill to swallow knowing your greatest contribution might just occur toward the end of your life, or even post mortem. Because where’s the self glory in that? But the best stories keep the eternal ripple of truth carrying on. With Christ, we go from being dusty, dead words on a shelf to a living, breathing story, like the Bible is said to be. (“For the word of God is living and active.”)
Regardless of our vocation or visibility in the world, how we live is immensely important. I think Hannah Whitall Smith says it best: “We are God’s witnesses necessarily, because the world will not read the Bible, but they will read our lives.”