Red-banded Hairstreak butterflies are a favorite of mine. They are so numerous in the fall at our farm that you can pick them up by hand. It isn't unusual for one to land on me.
As I wandered with my camera photographing Red-banded Hairstreaks in the fall, I startled one of these butterflies. It immediately flew away, instinctively reacting to my movement near it.
It flew directly into the grasp of a spider. Within a split second, it was caught. I took a photo but it was not the photo that I had intended to take of that particular butterfly.
As I snapped photos of this little dying/dead butterfly, I thought about its death. If it had known that I intended no harm, that I simply intended to take its photo, it could have sat still. It would not been lunch for the spider. It simply reacted instinctively. Normally, that instinct saves its life again and again. This time, the instinct to flee cost it its life.
I find myself reacting instinctively too often. Instead of responding to a situation or a comment, I react. 'Reacting' is speaking and/or acting without thinking through the costs or benefits of an action. 'Responding' is thinking about a situation and speaking and/or acting after thinking it through. Many times we do not have time to add prayer time before responding. When time is available, praying before responding increases our ability to respond in the most appropriate manner.
This has been a hard lesson for me. Like the butterfly, reacting is instinctive and it usually takes a few hard knocks to learn the lesson to respond, not to react. Unlike the butterfly, reacting hasn't cost my life but it has cost in other ways.
I think of Peter. He had so much faith. When it came to reacting, he was a professional. [Matthew 14] Peter knew that if Jesus would ask him to walk out to him on the water, he could do it. "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water." And off he went, climbing over the edge of the boat and went toward Jesus. Evidently he went a little ways because when he took his eyes off Jesus, looked at the wind (effects of the wind) he began to sink. If he were close to the boat, he'd have turned and grabbed it. Peter could swim. [John 21] [Back to Matthew 14] When Peter started to sink, he said to Jesus, "Lord, save me." Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. I can just imagine Jesus' grin while he chided Peter, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Peter was so quick to just 'do' things without thinking and if often got him into trouble. Often his intentions were good or at least were not bad. [John 18] When Jesus was arrested, Peter cut of a man's ear trying to protect Jesus. Once again, Jesus chided Peter. I don't really imagine a grin this time, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" Peter had reacted, not thinking about what Jesus had just been telling them, that this was going to happen.
When Jesus was taken to Annas [John 18] Peter was still reacting. He denied knowing Jesus three different times. Jesus had even told him that he was going to deny him three times. Peter should have been warned and cautious. Instead, Peter was reacting again. We should remember this is the Peter that was faithful, so full of love, so concerned, that he followed Jesus when he was taken away. (He and John both had followed Jesus as he was taken away.)
Peter's later years were as full of faith as his earlier years with Jesus. As I read of Peter in the book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit, I sense a bit of slowing down in his reactions and more sense of responding to situations.
This impetuous man who was so quick to react to situations instead of respond to them was a man that God used in mighty ways. Reacting and making mistakes (even big ones) doesn't mean God can't use us. Peter was the man who was instrumental for bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. [Acts 10] This is the man who gave a speech at Pentecost [Acts 2] and at the temple [Acts 3]. This the a man who was used by God in miraculous ways.
It is encouraging to me to read about Peter. I relate to him in some ways. Like Peter, I tend to react. It is soothing to realize that the same God who used Peter and Paul is the same God who can use me in spite of my faults.
I learned that the best way to 'respond' is with prayer and Bible study. When I think the situation through, look for instances in the Bible that can be applied to the situation, and pray for God's guidance, things flow much smoother.