I grew up in the city of Detroit in the 1960’s. We didn’t use phones back then like we do today. If I wanted to see my friend Mark, I didn’t call first. I rode my bike four blocks to his house and rang his doorbell instead of his phone.
But we did use the phone to call weather. I still remember the number: 936.1212. We called mostly to delight ourselves in its inaccurate predictions. Time after time, in the midst of a Noah-like, epic deluge, we’d call only to hear, “Ten percent chance of light sprinkles,” and we’d laugh ourselves silly.
Before technology, weather prediction relied on anecdotal pattern-observations, like, “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” Barometers and telegraphs provided more information, improving forecasts, but I was still laughing in the 1960’s.
Computers were built, in large part, because mathematicians believed they needed a machine which could simultaneously manage a myriad of variables, so that its computational power would finally permit accurate weather prediction.
Scientists forecast that fairy-tale for decades. That if you could put enough data into a machine, you could predict anything. But even now, ten-day weather predictions are laughable.
In the latter 20th century, the mathematical branch of chaos theory recognized that even tiny variations in original conditions radically influence the resulting outcome. Chaos theory doesn’t resist understanding, it only claims we’ll never understand enough. It jokingly claims:
A butterfly flapping its wings in China might be the cause of a tornado in Kansas.
If Scientists Can Be Humble, Why Can’t We?
My wife and I raised four kids into adulthood. We practiced the proverb, “Train your children in the way to go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” But we soon saw that our “training” was 95% example and only 5% teaching. We lectured them to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” but our own personal foibles taught the opposite. With gale force muscle.
As everyone’s kids grow older, we all see in them the very weaknesses parents modeled; yes “We train our children in a way to go, and when they are old, they do not depart from it.”
Unfortunately, the “way” they go is not what we lectured. Other variables were at work.
When our kids are children, God gives us a limited power over them. We can put them in timeout for lying and reduce their screen time for not eating vegetables. But the rationed-control God grants us is miniscule. We can’t control what they hear on the playground or what they dream about at night.
We can’t control. And we shouldn’t control. There are too many variables beyond our greatest imagination. Our childish attempts to control life are butterflies flapping their wings in China, anxieties creating hurricanes in the lives of those around us.
The entrée into the Christian life is the easiest access of any religion: it has nothing to do with flawless living, perfect thinking, or loving wholly. The Christian life is birthed when we admit, “I can’t do it; there’s a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere.”
Although, perhaps access to the Christian life is the toughest. Despite decades of information proving we can’t predict anything, we still think we know exactly: what our adult kids need, how our spouse should change, or what political solution will bring God’s peace to the world.
We are proud and certain of our master plans, despite contrary data and our repeated failures. Tim Keller once said, “Anxiety is knowing exactly what needs to happen, and believing God won’t get it right.”
We are uptight, anxious, neurotic nincompoops.
The second Psalm says all the world—from the lowest subjects to the mightiest kings—rage and plot and scheme to escape God’s control of their lives, saying, “Let us burst his bonds and cast away his restraints.” The world rejects God’s existence, but we Christians reject his tactics.
Let’s learn to lean; to abandon our schemes of earthly joy, to relinquish our claims of best practices, and let’s learn to lean into Him. We don’t know one percent of all the factors involved in life. Let’s Let Go! Besides, when God hears of our plan to outwit the typhoons of life,
“He who sits in the heavens laughs himself silly” (Ps. 2:4).