The Ripple Effect

As I reflect on the picture of the swan, causing a ripple in the water with its beak, I begin to wonder:  what is the ripple effect? What stirs in my heart that comes out in my words and my actions….who does that “ripple” to?  What is the “effect”?

"Ripple effect" is defined by Wikipedia as “a situation where, like the ever expanding ripples across water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from an initial state can be followed outwards incrementally.”

As we look to a new year, my desire is to go deep, to understand the internal workings of a heart, a mind, a soul. 

Its too much to know, I quickly tell myself. 

And then, I settle in.  I take a moment to ponder.  How do we get our arms around what stirs in our hearts?  The stirrings that propel us, that move us.  And if, by the very slight internal movement within the heart, there can grow into something bigger, something more impactful, something more felt, more powerful…wouldn’t it be worth it to sit and listen for that stirring?

As I think of the ripple effect, I visualize a sound wave and think of the impact of listening deeply.  As I think of the ripple effect, I visualize the sound wave of a voice and think of the treasure of a friend or family member or client being able to recognize and share his/her voice. What does the ripple effect look like if we give voice to the internal stirrings of the heart? 

On a body of water, the ripple effect isn’t as easily visible when there is wind.  When we are at the lake cabin, often the best time to find the lake in what we refer to as “glassy still” state, is first thing in the morning. If the desire is to water ski on the still water, the benefit of getting up early is worth it.  For me, the time when my heart is “glassy still” is also first thing in the morning.  I find this is the time that my mind is not distracted by the “to do” list of the day, by conversations, by thoughts.  And for me, a calm mind is what allows me to understand my heart.  When is the time your heart and mind are most likely to be still? Glassy still?

What is the reflection you see?  What ripples out? Can you see your worthiness?  In Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved, he writes to a close friend, “All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved’, and all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold.  My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being  - ‘You are the Beloved’.” Reverberate is another good word for ripple.  As we embrace our belovedness, the ripple effect of our love is expressed.

The challenge to us is as Brennan Manning states in Abba’s Child, “Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves.  Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence.”  The core of our heart, the place where the rippling begins.

Isn’t that how things work sometimes? A gentle stirring in our hearts can be transformed into an incredible rippling if we can be still and listen to the beat of our heart.  If we can but catch a glimpse of our belovedness at the center of our heart, then the ripple effect begins.