Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about potential. I think some of that has to do with my current status of seeking employment and trying to discern which listings suggest the best fit and provide the best opportunity for both the company and me, but it goes far beyond that.
Last night I had a deep and lengthy conversation with one of my best friends. We talked about a lot of things, with one of those being the idea of potential. I’ve always bristled at the notion that anyone can be anything in our world. It’s kind of an over-the-top rosy worldview that has some value (it’s good to encourage kids growing up to dream big) while also creating the possibility for great struggle (feeling like nothing you do is good enough because it falls short of the lofty ideas you had when you were younger). While it’s absolutely important to push people to strive for improvement and to maximize their gifts, it only causes heartbreak if you convince someone they can (and should) be able to achieve something they simply cannot.
My go-to example is basketball. I’m 5-9 and unathletic; I never had a chance at an NBA career. Now someone could point out that there have been a select few who overcame similar height challenges to have successful professional careers, but they also had tremendous athleticism far beyond anything I could ever aspire to even with nonstop effort. It doesn’t hurt me at all to know this is not a possibility for my life. It’s actually quite helpful to realize when something is not an option because it allows me to narrow my focus on those that could be.
This is where the question of potential comes in. Every decision we make is a simultaneous choosing of one thing and dismissing of all others. Each step eliminates countless possibilities and sets us down a certain path that narrows itself naturally as we continue to put one foot in front of the other. Thankfully we have time and ability to choose several different paths to varying degrees, but each step in one direction is a step away from another.
As human beings, we’re often really bad at picking up signals. The stereotype is this is a guy thing, where men can’t recognize even the most obvious hints, but I think it goes beyond just men. We’re all pretty bad at taking the hint and following it.
History is full of examples supporting this, and even our daily lives reveal the issue. We see this particularly in regards to our current culture and the idea of rest. Our society so strongly promotes nonstop work and effort, a powerful drive to achieve something great to attain fame, fortune, success or whatever else it is you seek. Rest is for the lazy, the week, those lacking passion.
Often we don’t even think about it in such harsh terms. We don’t consciously look down on rest; we just don’t allow it for ourselves. Sometimes this is our own personal choice based on our drive. Other times it’s more of a passive choice that comes in a chosen profession that demands far more than a healthy amount of time and commitment. Either way, we push through because we have goals to achieve and we enjoy the chase. What we neglect to notice is the price we pay.
Anticipation can be one of the best or worst things in life. Today is a reminder of both sides of that experience.
Today is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Different traditions refer to it by various names, including the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Holy Saturday or Easter Eve, and some use the term “Joyous Saturday.” And it certainly is exactly that. For we know what comes next.
But as we review the last few chapters of the Gospels at this time of year with Easter Sunday mere hours away, it always sticks out to me that Saturday is almost entirely skipped. Part of this is the fact it was Sabbath and the Jewish followers of Jesus likely spent the day behind closed doors observing the Sabbath, particularly as part of the Passover celebration. But it must have been anything but a joyous Saturday.
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
Obviously, these are the familiar first three verses of the Old Testament book of Jonah. The story of Jonah has always intrigued me: the story of a prophet who flees from God and in turn has the opportunity to enjoy the undersea lodgings of a large fish. We hear the story repeatedly in Sunday School as little children and often tend to gloss over it later in life because it is so familiar to us. Further, the story itself is the subject of much speculation about who Jonah actually was and the potential allegorical meanings of the book as describing the selfishness of Israel.
Without going too deep into such speculation, we can examine the character of Jonah and see exactly who he is today.