POTENTIAL AND OPPORTUNITY
I wonder whether Jesus didn’t see something else in little children that we sometimes overlook – potential.
What possibilities are locked up in the tiny frame that lies helplessly in your arms? All you are aware of at that moment is the beauty and perfection of the little one, the excitement of its safe arrival and the love that wells up from within and threatens to overwhelm you as you hold your new-born child’s warm little body against you. You are conscious of the great responsibility that lies ahead to nurture, protect and provide for your child as he or she grows up in your home.
There is, within that bundle of joy, great potential – for good or evil. I remember learning a poem at school which reminds me, in the superb poetry of Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” of the unlocked potential of the ordinary people whose bones lay beneath the sod.
Three verses in this wonderful poem stand out for me, expressing in Thomas Gray’s matchless arrangement of words his lament that so much unfulfilled potential lay buried in that forgotten spot.
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
How tragic that there was no one to give these humble peasants the opportunity to develop their potential!
Solomon, in his wisdom wrote:
Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov.22:6).
Sadly, most of us miss the point of this instruction. We take comfort from a promise that our children will return to God in later life even if they stray from His way when they are young in spite of our teaching. This verse does not mean that at all. Solomon is not speaking about backsliding. He is encouraging parents to recognise the potential in their child and to guide him or her along the “bent” that is already within them.
Many parents try to live their own unrealised dreams and unfulfilled potential through their children or to force them to follow in their footsteps because it is a family tradition. Solomon gave wise advice – get to know your child and help him or her to develop what is inside them. In their adult years they will not try another way because they will be fulfilled in what they have become.
Side by side with potential goes opportunity. Children should be given the opportunity to become what God has placed inside them to be. This can only happen when parents are loving, affirming and supportive. There is no greater gift a father can give his child than the words, “You are my son, my daughter and I love you. No matter what you do, you will always be my son (or daughter).” If Jesus needed to hear His Father speak these words of love and affirmation to sustain His through His earthly life, how much more do our children need their father’s blessing to give them identity and security.
Within each new-born baby is the potential for great good or great evil. What they become will depend on the foundation upon which their lives are built. Parents who nurture their children in an environment of love and acceptance give them every opportunity to become not only what they were created to be but also mature and responsible adults who are givers, not takers in their own world.
Society, unfortunately, is flooded with maladjusted and angry people who were raised in an environment of rejection and insecurity, often fatherless, without an identity who take their anger out on the world around them. Denied the opportunity to become who they were meant to be, they can only fulfil their potential for great evil.
It is up to every parent who brings a child into the world, to play his or her part in creating the environment for that child to become everything a loving Creator put inside of them when they were formed in the womb.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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