A fascinating epiphany about the ripple effect occurred to me while listening to one of my favorite faith podcasts, Discovering the Jewish Jesus. Rabbi Schneider is a Messianic Jewish man of faith. I have done some occasional work for him and been very blessed by those opportunities.
In his podcast series on Keys to Breakthrough (episode 168), the rabbi describes King David’s response to being attacked. He describes David’s mindset that struck a chord with me because I often forget. David’s habit was checking first with God, and then acting. David asked God, went to battle, and he won “with his own hand”. Then he celebrated. But David didn’t sit around waiting for someone else to take action or tell someone else to do it. He did it himself.
Any time David went outside of that habit, he met dismal and humiliating failure like when he coveted a woman and then sent her husband to the front lines. It’s easy to build false confidence and entitlement when you’re in a position of power. Power is a narrow pedestal with a steep drop into a raging, rocky ocean. There are no human beings who haven’t made a bad decision or a mistake. Thank God that David gave us an example of how to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness. He didn’t blame anyone else when Nathan pointed out the king’s sin. He changed his course by coming before God with a personal failure.
I thought about all the things David had done in his life to prepare him for the pending attack. Opportunities he could have ignored or rebelled against, but didn’t. His sense of duty and obedience to his father, to the prophet Samuel, to the king were disciplined and respectful. He did as he was asked at the time. The many jobs, skills, and experiences that went into creating a confident man who could pray and then go to battle leading his army came from answering the many little calls over his lifetime.
This is where my brain took a leap into the blossoming epiphany. How many jobs, hobbies, skills, and experiences did David have? How many people have been affected by David’s life because he did so many different things that seemingly had no connection to another. What shepherd boy normally fights a predator barehanded? What youngest son becomes the king behind how many big brothers that are still living? What lyre-playing musician goes on the run and into hiding? He’s the ultimate under dog when he’s bringing cheese to his brothers and then defeats Goliath with a slingshot. Then as a returning warrior, he’s a worship leader. Let’s not forget his architectural skills, business acumen, and on we go. His lasting ripple effect on the world is deep and wide because he leaned into God, even when David’s human mistakes and poor choices caused pain and humiliation. But it all started with the boring stuff like watch the sheep, take lunch to your big brothers, and play a song on your tiny harp.
My thoughts flickered through my own life full of jobs, skills, hobbies, and experiences both good and rough. One concept I learned in my mid-20s came from a management training film called something like The Ripple Effect. I’ve always wanted to be someone who created a tidal wave of good and beauty and to help others. I’ve spoken publicly of being a pebble that not only causes a ripple on the surface, but also goes deep and causes a tidal wave. That’s very much what King David did because of God working through him.
All those seemingly disconnected jobs, skills, and experiences have a purpose. I’m often surprised by how a business skill intersects with a book I’m writing or marketing. Some experience from years ago comes into play for a character or business need. Makes a lot of sense for a writer to know and have experienced…stuff. But now I’m about to finish my genealogical studies. I’m looking to the future on what that will do to my daily work and life. How many normal, boring tasks have brought me to this point? Have I been obedient in carrying them out? Did I miss a battle cry by shirking something I thought was tiny, unimportant?
And then that epiphany snuck up on me with a KAPOW! I’m seeing pieces of my life puzzle interlock. I see how a pebble dropped in my childhood by my grandparents created a ripple in my adult life. I’ve learned how to lead, make strong business decisions, speak professionally, investigate and research, travel professionally guiding others, speak a little in other languages, pivot to correct, plan ahead, take risks, connect to a wide variety of personalities, and serve in a variety of roles.
I also learned the spotlight is uncomfortably hot and can be very humbling. I think David learned that as well. What makes me any different? Instead, I’d rather be available when God calls on me to use what He’s allowed me to learn because somehow He’s going to do something I can’t always see or understand until God reveals the plan. Praying for God’s will instead of our own is scary. I think it’s because discipline and determination to follow through come into play. That takes a huge amount of courage. Courage that is a blessing, if we ask for it.
But, the experiences given to me by a good and gracious God are in order to allow Him to work through me. Not so that I can work for or on behalf of Him. I need to stay close to Him so that my own rippling waves don’t capsize my little dinghy that I think is a massive ship captained by me. I may be a human leader, a creative being, but anything I do is only by the grace of God as He chooses to move my heart and hand into action. He directs my path so that I won’t stumble. I’m really good at face-planting all on my own.
Disciplined and determined prayerful action may very well reach every shore of every continent— and down a thousand generations. There. That was the fascinating epiphany. The vision of the ripple rushing out to every continent. Though it may be one action in my lifetime that sends one tiny wave lapping one small shore or God may choose to wash many shores through my obedient active faith. But He may also choose to continue that rippling wave down a thousand generations like He did with King David whose many experiences are epically told. If God chooses for me to be a trickling stream that feeds an ocean, I am content. Even a tiny tributary sends a ripple down to the ocean.
Consider a new prayer that takes a heart of discipline and determination, “Lord, what would You have me to do? Guide me, and I will DO it.”
(c) 2021, Angela Breidenbach