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The Spirit of Possibility

By May 20, 2013 No Comments

Graphic by Timothy Aivazian ( Pentecost Monday, friends. As I was reflecting on the layers of meaning that Pentecost carries, I found my way back to a quote I’d copied down years ago from one of German theologian Jurgen Moltmann’s books, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. It resonated deeply with me right now and I wanted to share it.

I hope and pray today that the Spirit who animates and transforms our lives may keep us utterly aflame (and highly contagious!) with possibility, with love, and with trust. 


“Many people can do more than they think they can. Why?  We are afraid of attempting things because we are afraid of failing.  ‘If you don’t try, you can’t fail’ we tell ourselves.  But people who withdraw into themselves and creep into their shells out of fear of defeat, or because they are anxious about the way other people will react, or because they are afraid of losing some personal relationship, will never get to know their own potentialities.  They are not living in all the opportunities life is offering them.  But to do this is never to learn one’s own limitations either.  It is only when we try to get beyond our limitations that we learn what they are, and accept them.

There are people who think everything is impossible from the outset.  ‘It’s pointless,’ they say.  ‘Nothing will come of it in any case,’ and ‘I can’t.’  In this way they save themselves a lot of conflicts, but they experience very little about true life either.  And they learn least of all about themselves.  To themselves they remain anonymous.

But there are also people who believe in the possible.  That is the way believers are described in the synoptic gospels:  ‘All things are possible with God.’  The people who trust to that then sense that ‘All things are possible to him who believes.’  Of course this faith in the possible brings them some defeats, but they also experience the strength to get up again after their setbacks. The person who believes becomes a person full of possibilities.  People like this do not restrict themselves to the social roles laid down for them, and do not allow themselves to be tied to these roles.  They believe they are capable of more.  And they do not tie other people down to their own preconceived ideas.  They do not imprison others in what they are at present.  They see them together with their future, and keep their potentialities open for them.  ‘Love frees us from every image,’ said Max Frisch.  Love does not pin people down.  It sets them free.  If love gives trust, the other person can grasp his own potentialities for good.  Our charismatic potentialities are awakened by trust: trust in God, trust in ourselves, and trust in our neighbor.  And in this free space of trust we can trust ourselves to do something too.”

-Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (1992), p. 186-187

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