Pondering His Potential

Pondering His Potential

Nov 28, 2016

by Pastor Scott Hausrath

North Loup SDB Church, NE

What bothered Marcy so much wasn’t the fact that she didn’t get the female lead in her school’s Holiday play. After all, she knew that her own voice wasn’t as strong or beautiful as Laurie Berman’s. Marcy had to admit that Laurie really did deserve the role of Mrs. Claus in the Arlington Middle School production of Winter Workshop Wonderama. Marcy was content with her own role as one of the lead elves. She would be singing a few numbers as part of a group of elves, and she even had a solo verse in one song.


What was really frustrating Marcy was that her school wasn’t even doing a Christmas play this year. It was doing a Holiday play.

There wasn’t even one mention of Joseph, Mary, or the Baby Jesus. It was all about Santa Claus! All the songs revolved around Santa and Mrs. Claus at their North Pole factory, as the elves were making toys for Christmas. Wow, thought Marcy, the school actually allowed them to use the term “Christmas” in their production. How generous of them!

“Hey, Peanut, penny for your thoughts.” Marcy’s father had quietly walked into the family room, where she had been lying on her back on the comfortable shag carpet, clutching her SpongeBob pillow as she was pondering what a disappointment this Holiday play was going to be.

Jolted back to reality, Marcy remembered how wise her father had always been, and how he usually saw something in a situation that she didn’t see. “I just think it’s so stupid, Dad. It’s such a waste of energy. I mean, like, why go to all the trouble of putting on a huge production during the Christmas season and not even talk about what Christmas is, or who Jesus is. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”


“Yeah, I see what you mean, Pumpkin,” her father responded. “Why put on a non-Christmas play during Christmas? Just doesn’t feel right, huh?” Carl Ralston grabbed an overstuffed pillow from the couch and lay down next to his twelve-year-old daughter. He had just closed Bean Fix, the coffee house that he had been managing for the last fifteen or so years. Though Marcy had never liked the taste of coffee, she always loved the aroma that her father brought home with him from the shop. It was a more mellow scent, and it always brought to her mind thoughts of hospitality, images of reaching out to others and bringing them comfort. Seemed fitting that her father brought comfort to his customers. He had always been a very comforting presence in her life.

“You know, Panda Bear,” Carl continued, “I’m wondering if God might have something really special planned for this production. I mean, on the surface it seems like the only thing that’s going to be glorified by this play is the god of consumerism. All the songs are about making and delivering toys. It’s such a shallow message. How can God be glorified through that?

“But do you remember last Sabbath when Pastor Larry was talking about the idea of potential? He was encouraging us not to get frustrated by the way things are, but instead to get excited about the way they could be. I love that illustration he used, from the story about Joseph and Mary and the Baby Jesus. Remember how he read from the gospel of Luke, that section where the shepherds had told Mary and Joseph that their son would be the Messiah? And then he read that verse that said, ‘But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ I’ve been thinking about that verse all week.”

“But, Dad,” Marcy interjected, “what does that story have to do with our lousy Holiday play?”

“Well, think about it for a minute, Princess. Here was this girl, Mary, and she probably wasn’t much older than you are right now. She was holding this baby in her arms, and she was trying to imagine how in the world this baby could actually be God. I mean, what an amazing concept! This insignificant infant, from insignificant parents, was going to become the most significant person to ever inhabit this planet. Don’t you get it?”

“Sorry, Dad, you lost me at ‘think about it for a minute.’”

“Okay, here’s what I’m saying. This Holiday play, a production that doesn’t even mention Jesus, seems like a total waste, right? To us, it seems like something totally insignificant. But to God, perhaps there’s something very significant about this play. Just think about it, Puddin’ Cup. Mary didn’t know how God would use her precious little baby, but she still believed that He would use him. Even though she couldn’t see Jesus’ potential, she believed that he had an amazing potential, because God was in the middle of this story.”

“But, Dad, that’s the problem. God isn’t in the middle of this story. This play doesn’t talk about God at all, so how can He use it for His glory?”

Carl sensed his daughter’s frustration as she seemed to be squeezing the life out of poor SpongeBob, so he cut to the chase. “Okay, here’s the bottom line, PeeWee. You are just like Mary. You can’t see how God could ever use this insignificant Holiday play for His glory. But the fact that you can’t see the potential of this play does not mean that there is no potential. When God is in our lives, there is always a potential for Him to do something amazing, something we would never think of ourselves.”

It was time for Carl to start putting dinner together, so he left his daughter to think about what he had shared with her, hoping and praying that he had adequately explained Pastor Larry’s message from last Sabbath.

Over the next few days, Marcy joined her father in reflecting on that verse from Luke — “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Could it really be true that God was going to do something special through that stupid Holiday play? He’d better get on it quick, she thought, because the play opens tomorrow night.

The next day Marcy was all smiles, as she anticipated the joy of being in a live theater production. Even though she didn’t like the message of the play, she still relished the excitement of acting in front of a live audience.

During lunch, Marcy noticed that Laurie Berman, who would be playing Mrs. Claus tonight, was not her usual gregarious self. Laurie seemed to be sulking, isolating herself at a corner table instead of hanging out with her friends. Even though Laurie wasn’t one of her friends, Marcy remembered Pastor Larry’s teaching that God calls us to love everyone, whether or not they’re our friends. So, she went over to Laurie and asked if she could join her for lunch. Even though Laurie didn’t bust out the welcome mat, she didn’t slam the door in her face either. Marcy tentatively sat down next to her classmate and attempted to engage her in conversation.

“Laurie, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look so good today. Are you okay?”

“It’s the play tonight,” Laurie responded as she looked down and frowned at her food. “I’ve never had such a big role before — I’m really nervous about it. A couple hours ago I started feeling sick to my stomach, and right now I can’t even think about eating lunch.”

“But Laurie, I’ve seen you during all of our rehearsals. You’ve been nailing every single song. You know the words, the music, and even all those stupid dance moves that Mrs. Ferguson is making us do. You’ve got it all down. How can you be nervous?”

“I don’t know. I just am. And if I’m feeling like this when that curtain goes up tonight, there’s no way that I’ll be able to play Mrs. Claus. I’m gonna ruin it for everyone!” This last statement sent tears down Laurie’s cheeks.

What could Marcy say that would help Laurie with her nerves? She herself brooded in silence for a couple minutes, then suddenly a thought popped into her head. “Laurie, let me tell you what I do when I’m gonna do some public speaking, or acting, or anything else that makes me nervous. I ask my dad to pray for me. He hugs me tight and asks God to remove my fear and my nervousness. Then he looks into my eyes and tells me that I’ll do a great job. Every time he does this I feel so much better. It’s almost like he turns me into a superhero, and my special ability is to focus on my lines instead of my nerves. Why don’t you ask your dad to do this for you tonight, right before we go on stage?”

“There’s no way my dad would ever pray for me like that, Marcy. My dad hates God. I don’t know why. All my life, both of my parents have always been so bitter toward God, toward the church, and especially toward people who try to tell them how wonderful God is.” Laurie’s tears continued as she imagined how bad she would make things for everyone else tonight. She was stuck in her misery, and nothing else that Marcy said could change that. The two just sat next to each other and finished their lunch period in a silence filled with sadness and hopelessness.

Marcy spent the rest of the afternoon with a confusing mix of emotions. She was still excited about tonight, but she also felt sad when she thought about how terrible Laurie was feeling. What could Marcy do to help her classmate?

That evening, Arlington Middle School was a beehive of activity. Cars were filling the parking lot; rushed family members were scrambling for the few remaining seats in the auditorium; and behind the closed curtain, Mrs. Ferguson was trying her best to deal with all the last-minute crises that accompany live stage performances.

As opening curtain drew closer, Carl Ralston quietly made his way backstage to check on his precious daughter. He noted how cute she looked as an elf and remembered feeling the same way when he had seen her as a ballerina last year, as a leprechaun two years ago, and as a singing candy cane three years ago. He even remembered how cute she had looked as a potted plant when she was just six. He appreciated all the performance opportunities she had been given over the years.

“Dad?” Marcy hesitantly called out as she saw her father excitedly approaching her. He was on the verge of scooping her up into a bear hug when he suddenly noticed how worried she appeared.

“What’s wrong, Pollywog?” he asked as he knelt down to look into her pleading eyes.

“My friend Laurie is supposed to play Mrs. Claus, but she’s so nervous that she can hardly move. What can we do to help her?”

“Can you take me to her, Pork Chop?”

Marcy took her father’s hand and led him into the corner in which Laurie had isolated herself. Laurie looked pale and hopeless, a shell of the vibrant socialite she usually was. She acknowledged Marcy’s presence and also recognized Mr. Ralston from other school activities.

“Laurie,” Carl began, “Marcy says you’re really nervous right now. I usually pray with her before her performances. Would you like me to pray with you too?”

Laurie didn’t know what to say. This was such a foreign invitation to her.

In her entire life, no one had ever offered to pray with her. Though it seemed strange and a bit scary, she looked into her friend Marcy’s eyes and saw a level of peace that she herself desperately needed. “Please!” she blurted out, tears spilling from her eyes.

Before Carl even had a chance to reach out for Laurie, she grabbed onto him like her life depended on it. Carl wrapped his arms around this precious child and asked God to remove the anxiety from her. He asked God to enable her to focus on her lines and dance steps. He also asked that she would have the ability to be present in the moment as she performed, and that she would actually enjoy what she was experiencing.

As Carl said a very heartfelt “Amen,” he started to release his grip on Laurie. But she refused to let go of this man who had accepted her, who had stepped into her world of pain. She held him tightly for another few moments and then stepped back, overflowing with a confidence matched only by the level of surprise moving through her.

“Wow,” Laurie whispered under her breath, still trying to take in the huge contrast between one minute ago and now. “What happened? I don’t feel nervous at all. I even want to go on stage now. What happened?”

“Laurie,” Carl said with a huge smile on his face, “Marcy and I believe in a God who loves us, who wants to help us, and who has the ability to help us. Your anxiety is gone because God removed it from you. He wants you to know that He is real, that He is right here with you, and that He will be with you every moment when you’re on that stage. You’re not alone, Sweetheart. God is with you.”

Laurie had to get to her place for opening curtain, so she didn’t have time to ask Mr. Ralston all the questions that were rushing through her mind: How can I know more about this God you’re talking about? Why does He love someone as insignificant as me? Can He also help my dad, just like He helped me? She made a mental note to talk with Marcy and her father again, when she had more time, and she scurried off to her place onstage.

As she watched Laurie move quickly through the chaos of opening night actors, Marcy looked up at her father and said, “Dad, thank you so much for what you did!”

Carl’s smile was still in place as he said to his relieved daughter, “Marcy, I understand why you were so frustrated the last few days. You thought there was no way that God could be glorified by this stupid Holiday play. But there is always a potential for God to be glorified. He can take even the most hopeless situation and do something amazing with it, something we would never think of ourselves. I think that’s why Luke told us that ‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ Jesus’ mother wasn’t focusing on what was. She was focusing on what could be.”

Marcy didn’t have time to reflect on what her wise father had shared with her. Just like Laurie, she too had to rush to her place for opening curtain. As she moved to her spot on the stage, however, along with a bunch of other elves, Marcy thanked God that, even before this stupid Holiday play had begun, He had already made an appearance and had miraculously blessed someone who desperately needed Him. God has already been glorified through this play, she thought to herself, and He will continue to be glorified. She pondered this thought in her heart.

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