Archive for January, 2011

A Psalm of Life

Saturday, January 8th, 2011


TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real !   Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

True Potential

Friday, January 7th, 2011

by Kristin

I remember my highschool English teacher standing before the class one day and telling us 12th-graders in somber tones what he considered to be the greatest tragedy in life: “failure to live up to one’s potential.”

I also recall that on a different occasion he openly expressed his opinion that I ought to pursue doctorate studies because I had the intelligence to do so.

Sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Z., but I stopped school after earning my undergraduate degree.

Is my life a tragedy?  My answer is an unwavering and resounding “NO.”  Not because I am actually a simpleton (hopefully that’s not the case!) and was content just to be a “domestic slave” and a “baby machine”.  On the contrary, the reason why I say “no” is because I disagree fundamentally with my highschool teacher’s understanding of “human potential.”

What really is our “human potential”? What does that mean?

If you ask me, our potential as human beings is inextricably linked with our purpose as human beings.

Take a hammer for example.  Sure, a hammer has the potential to dig a hole, but it would make a lousy shovel.  It also has the potential to flip pancakes, but honestly, it would make an even worse spatula.  The greatest realization of a hammer’s potential is found in fulfilling its purpose: to drive nails.

So the next question is: what is our purpose as human beings?

The Westminster Catechism presents the best answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

That’s it, friends. Our purpose in life, and the greatest realization of our potential, is not to become the smartest, the richest, the strongest, or the fastest human. Rather, our greatest potential lies in glorifying God.

Does that mean we have to stand around and sing hymns all day? I don’t think so. We can bring glory to our Creator by doing our best in whatever sphere of life He has called us to.  God has equipped us with certain skills and talents that He expects us to use to the praise and honour of His name.  Has He called you to be a musician? Be the best musician you can be.  Has He called you to be an entrepreneur? Be the best entrepreneur you can be.  Has He called you to be a wife and mother? Be the best wife and mother you can be. Has He called you to be a missionary? Be the best missionary you can be. Even those who suffer from a disability can glorify their Creator by doing their best under the circumstances. Take Joni Eareckson Tada for example.

The one qualification I would stress is that we, in our respective callings, put our Christian calling and obeying God first.  What does it matter if you are the richest, most successful entrepreneur if you cheated people and swindled money to get there and thereby shamed the name of Christ?  What does it matter if you are the most famous, most persuasive missionary of your time if God is not glorified by your life?  If other people, when observing our life and work, are not led to praise God but rather to slander the name of Christ, we have failed to live up to our true potential.  And that failure, my friends, is truly a tragic one.

I close with the last verse of one of my favourite poems, “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (read the whole thing under “Poetry” in the right column):

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.