#46: Hidden Potential

#46: Hidden Potential

When I was in 8th grade, there was a girl in my class named Laura who was a competitive gymnast. I don’t remember anyone taking gymnastics lessons back then, like they do now from an alarmingly young age. Laura’s abilities were a source of endless discussion and fascination for girls like me who had trouble walking on flat surfaces without tripping over their own shoelaces.

One quarter I took P.E. with Laura, “Intro to Gymnastics.” It was a ridiculous waste of her time, but a requirement for the more advanced classes. One of the coaches usually worked with her on exercises more suited to her skill level. While the rest of us teetered on the “short” beam and could barely climb on the pommel horse with a step stool, Laura tumbled on mats and swung on parallel bars with the greatest of ease.

I can recall two things that happened in this class like it was yesterday. The first is the day the coach let anyone who wanted to try a “kick over” on the uneven parallel bars. This is when you hang from the higher bar with your legs on the lower bar, and kick your body impossibly high up and over until you are resting on the top bar. It’s a fairly elemental move…until you consider various factors:

  • The high bar is called high for a reason.
  • It takes strength to flip your entire body in the air.
  • It takes greater strength to stop your body once it has fully committed to flipping.
  • It takes super strength to hold onto the bar you are flipping over when you factor in mass, rotational energy, and angular velocity.
  • Gravity is not always your friend.

I’m still not sure what possessed me to try this move. I was 5′ 4 ½” short with stubby arms and no muscles. Regardless, the coach helped me jump up to the high bar and flip my legs through so they were resting on the low one. From there, all it took was a kick. But instead of the graceful arc from low to high that Laura made look so effortless, all I accomplished was a few seconds of being airborne followed by the resounding thunk of my legs returning to the low bar with painful force.

Even hanging from the top bar takes strength, so after a few tries I had jelly arms, but I was stubborn and kept at it. On the 4th try, the moment when my body hit the top of the rotation is emblazoned in my memory. But after you hit the top of a rotation, there is nowhere to go but down. I was not able to catch myself on the top bar and perch there daintily, like Laura did. Instead, I swung up, over, and around until I was hanging from the top bar again. Only, my jelly arms couldn’t take any more, so I fell from the bar down onto my butt. Fortunately, nothing was wounded but my pride.

My second gymnastics memory is when we each had to choreograph a short routine on the high beam using a few basic movements. The only thing I remember about mine is I did a “turn.” It’s hard to describe a turn; suffice to say that for one brief, shining moment I moved smoothly and gracefully with perfect pace. And when I was done, I heard someone say, “She should get an A for that turn alone.” It was the only thing I’ve ever done smoothly and gracefully with perfect pace.

When it came to anything gymnastical, it was obvious that Laura was operating in her element. My dubious attempts at a kick over proved I was pretty far out of mine. Though if you were watching me do one turn on a high beam (and ignored every single movement before and after it), I might have convinced you otherwise.

I guess what I am using far too many words to say is, everyone has unknown, untapped capacity. You might be the king of kick overs. You will never know until you try a few. It’s pretty rare that your first public turn on a high beam will be watchable. But if you suspect, even for a second, that there is some Laura-level potential within you to do anything, you owe it to yourself and the world to identify and develop it for all it’s worth.

I think you would be surprised to learn how many people are watching you to see what you will accomplish. There are friends and family who would cheer your every effort. And God has been waiting, maybe for a really long time, for you to begin doing what He created you to do.

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