Potential has a shelf life


How much are you willing to go for?

A child comes into the world full of wonder and excitement, ready for anything, but -in a Margaret Atwood aside- “potential has a shelf life.” That is to say, after a while, we may lose our enthusiasm for life’s fight.

We may lose track.

There’s a sad moment in Psalm 42,when the writer recalls, “My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshippers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!”

It used to be so great! What happened?

As Auden put it: “All we are not stares back at what we are.”

The writer known as C. Joybell C challenges that perspective:

“When I was little and running on the race track at school, I always stopped and waited for all the other kids so we could run together even though I knew (and everybody else knew) that I could run much faster than all of them! I pretended to read slowly so I could “wait” for everyone else who couldn’t read as fast as I could! When my friends were short I pretended that I was short too and if my friend was sad I pretended to be unhappy. I could go on and on about all the ways I have limited myself, my whole life, by “waiting” for people. And the only thing that I’ve ever received in return is people thinking that they are faster than me, people thinking that they can make me feel bad about myself just because I let them and people thinking that I have to do whatever they say I should do. …”

So what should I do?

“I’m not waiting for anybody, anymore! I’m going to run as fast as I can, fly as high as I can, I am going to soar and if you want you can come with me! But I’m not waiting for you anymore.”

The truth is that the potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channelled toward some great good.

A friend of mine who pastors a church used to call his Friday prayer night “The Possibility Arena.” It’s a provocative idea isn’t it? It suggests a crucial shift in that “shelf-life” thinking. Here it is:

Even if your own “possibilities” seem sometimes limited and even if you feel somewhat worn down by life, is your God also limited and worn down?


And God says: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvellous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’ (Jer 33:3)

There is more to go at, more to be seen. “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Today, Lord, I believe:
Let my faith rise with all the possibilities of this new day.

Lord, let my faith be full and unreserved,
and let it penetrate my thought,
and enable me to discern between  “human concerns” and the ways of God.

Lord, let my faith spill out into joy today
and give peace and gladness to my conversation,
as I talk with people and as I talk with you.

Lord, let my faith be humble and not presume
to be based on the experience of my thought and of my feeling; 

but let it surrender to the impulse of the Holy Spirit,. 

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