Chaos theory, Christmas and your family

Are you going to a family gathering this year? If you are, you can probably predict what is going to happen. After all, you’ve known some of those people your whole life. When we don’t like what happens, we can groan on our way to a reunion, “It’s the same people doing the same things….the same topics, the same type of jokes, the same relationships.”

And then something unpredicted happens. Your Uncle Jake, who is always argumentative and sarcastic, begins his annual tirade with, “The snow this morning was so beautiful, it actually brought tears to my eyes.” What happens next? Who knows! Or your sister Denise, who is habitually negative and critical of everyone’s children, shocks a frazzled mother by offering to read a cranky child a book, and ends up spending an hour playing one-on-one. What happens next? Who knows!

We can’t say exactly what made Uncle Jake or Denise veer off their regular trajectory. Maybe Uncle Jake’s neighbour had a heart attack last week, and Jake went to visit him in the hospital, and something the neighbour said about the snow stuck in Jake’s mind. This morning he looked out the window, and thought of his neighbour, and suddenly he saw the snow in a new way. Maybe Denise had a dream in the night about her grandmother and how she always made Denise feel loved. She had the vivid dream because she ate dill pickle chips before she went to bed. In any event, Denise may not even remember the dream in the morning but the child’s neediness hits her differently that day, and instead of a critical remark, she kneels down and looks into a little someone’s eyes.

The smallest tiniest things can change our patterns of behaviour. Uncle Jake and Denise, by doing something different may or may not change something in that family gathering…it’s hard to say what will happen. With so many people in one room, how will one small change affect the group? It seems impossible to predict, it’s chaotic. Who knows what will happen?

God has a theory. God can see how the smallest acts of love and kindness, as gentle as the breeze from a butterfly’s wings, can change the course of history in beautiful and maybe even predictable ways. One seven pound baby kicking away in his mother’s womb, waiting to be born. There are thousands, millions of babies born…but this one…this one….

God, open my eyes to see your love breaking out through the tiniest of cracks, in my family, in me. When I am with my family this Christmas, let me be the change I wish to see. You can take it from there.

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