Pause for thought
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You, like me, have probably held a new-born human for the first time and thought, “What will you be? What will you do? For what will you be remembered?”

In that helpless little bundle of humanity a whole lifetime of potential is hidden away, and much like Michelangelo freeing his statue of David from a block of marble by chipping and sculpting, so too will that little life be shaped and molded by the people and events and circumstances of life that will surround it.

Many of us never achieve our full potential because of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Many have no idea what they are capable of because of the fear of failure. Struggle is an inherent part of healthy growth and I’m sure everyone knows that a butterfly that does not struggle to emerge from its cocoon will never achieve the wing strength to fly.

I am not sure whether I totally agree with the wisdom of Yoda in Star Wars — “Do, or do not! There is no try!” — but as an incentive to avoid inaction, it has some merit.

I remember the first time I was privileged to visit Sea World in San Diego when they still had a show featuring Shamu the killer whale.

Shamu would swim around his pond and do various tricks in the water, including a mighty splash utterly soaking spectators in the front five rows! But his pièce de resistance was to accelerate and launch himself thirty feet in the air to touch a suspended beach ball! Stupendous! Unbelievable! Impossible!

My physics brain immediately started calculating the energy involved in launching two tons of whale from the buoyant safety of the aquatic environment into a totally unfamiliar and alien medium and achieving a spectacular height in doing so.

How did they find Shamu, I wondered? Did they go out into the Pacific Ocean and wait for an Orca that would launch itself thirty feet in the air? “Here, Shamu, Shamu”!

I knew there had to be a training regime involved and resolved to find out how it was done.

The answer turns out to be quite instructive and probably will never be repeated out of concern for the welfare of the animals involved, but there was no inherent cruelty employed.

The way you get a flying Shamu is to get a baby Shamu and place him in a large, thirty foot deep pool, much bigger than the show pool at Sea World.

The trainers place a very visible rope on the bottom of the pool and Shamu soon figures out that every time he swims over the rope, he is rewarded with special food. Swim under the rope, no special food. Once Shamu gets consistent in swimming over the rope, the trainers raise the rope by a few inches and repeat the process!

There comes a crisis point when the rope is close to the surface and it takes extra energy to swim (fly?) over it, but soon that also becomes routine. After a while the rope is thirty feet in the air!

Each little success and reward leads to the next. If you had told me a two ton whale could launch itself thirty feet in the air, I would have said it was impossible! How wrong can you be? I am pretty sure Shamu probably preferred the comfort zone of the water, but the potential to perform the spectacular aerobatics was already built in!

The Bible is replete with people whose potential was underestimated by themselves and their contemporaries.

Moses and Pharaoh come readily to mind — I am tempted to say that Moses was a basket case, but most people don’t get my jokes, so I won’t (didn’t?). Joshua at Jericho, David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah, Esther and Herman, any one of Jesus’ disciples, the list is almost endless.

These were all “ordinary” people doing “extraordinary” things! Jesus seems to pick people because of their potential rather than their reputation — Zacheus and Matthew are good examples. Simon has his nickname changed by Jesus — to “pebble” — “little stone”, because his faith potential is what Jesus needs to build his church!

Jesus is insistent that children be allowed to be close to him because they are the stuff of the Kingdom of Heaven!

As you can imagine, I have many “favorite” passages of scripture, but I think the one that thrills me the most was written by John the Apostle, self described as “Jesus’ favorite”, when he writes:

“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.” 1 John 3:2 NLT [emphasis mine]

This is my (and your) potential, and destiny — I will be like Jesus!

As the poet-General of The Salvation Army, John Gowans wrote:

To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me, In every thought and deed, this is my aim, my creed. To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me, His Spirit helping me, like Him I’ll be.

Surely there can be no higher aspiration or greater potential than to be like God’s Son!

I’m sure Shamu the Orca had no idea what its potential was, but its trainers did. And with patient, consistent encouragement they were able to expose a capability no one thought possible. In a similar way, we may not think we have the potential to do much to further the Kingdom of God on this earth, but the Holy Spirit does, and with patient, consistent encouragement he will expose abilities and capabilities of which we were totally unaware.

God never asks us to do anything of which we are incapable. God never sets us up for failure. God wants to demonstrate His glory through us and will help us to do so. We just have to believe that God knows what He’s about and knows our potential better than we do.

As the famous thorn-in-the-side apostle Paul said:

… I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Phiippians 4:13 NLT

Let the Holy Spirit raise the rope! Reach new heights! Achieve your potential!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at

Friday August 11th, 2023
Friday August 4th, 2023