In a recent “Dear Abby” column, a young girl wrote the columnist seeking advice.

During a class at school, she had stated that she would one day like to become president of the United States. Her classmates ridiculed her and her teacher completely dismissed the idea as implausible. The girl was upset and wondered if her dream was indeed too far-fetched.

Reader response following the girl’s letter was overwhelming. “Dear Abby” received so many letters in support of the girl that she devoted more than one column to reprinting some of them.

Men, women and even other students wrote to encourage the girl to be relentless in pursuing her goal. Many offered suggestions of things she can do now to prepare herself for the future she hopes to attain. All encouraged her not to let others define her future based on their limited understandings.

Sometimes our own low expectations limit what we can become. Occasionally we let the opinions of others pigeonhole or discourage us and keep us from reaching our full potential.

On the other hand, a little encouragement can sometimes cause a person to dream a new dream, or resurrect an old one.

When I was in high school, one of my English teachers required that we read the little book Jonathan Livingston Seagull and write a paper about it. I will never forget what Mrs. Schaeffer wrote at the top of my paper, alongside my A-plus grade: “If you would be as eloquent in class as you are on paper, you could set the world on fire.”

I’ve not started any worldwide fires, but the affirmation of Mrs. Schaeffer and later Mrs. O’Quinn encouraged me to pursue with passion my interest in writing about matters of faith.

Good teachers see potential. They see what’s not there, but could be. So does genuine discipleship.

God can take anything, no matter how small, limited or flawed, and produce something incredible. Neither our definitions of success nor our measurements for it are reliable.

It’s not about what we can see. It’s about what God can do. Discipleship is about the potential of the insignificant becoming significant.

Remember Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed? This is what he meant.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

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