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Plan and Potential

By Jamie Post Melin

In February, I drove down to Salt Lake City and boarded a plane to fly to Phoenix to attend my Grandmother’s funeral in Thatcher, Arizona. I’d made this trip a hundred times, but rarely with such clear skies and never with such a tender heart.

I was grateful to have the window seat. As my baby boy slept on my chest, I could clearly see the ground below. Sometimes I could make out the path of Interstate 15 snaking through some of the most beautiful and varied terrain on the planet, and other times I felt lucky to glimpse patches of wilderness I had never seen before–winding rivers, jagged red peaks, the steepled cliffs of Southern Utah.

It wasn’t long before the earth looked flat and brown, like clay pressed down with the palm of your hand. For a few seconds I watched this smoothness pass below me, and then I saw small cracks beginning in the ground. They would start like hairline fractures, and would soon resemble the top of a pan of brownies or cookies, the cracks widening and deepening as we headed further south.

Suddenly, those cracks became the northeastern edge of the Grand Canyon. Even from the plane, the breath-taking expanse of this hole in the ground was captivating. As I looked closely at the crevices and the multi-colored cliffs, the words of a favorite hymn ran through my mind (as they are wont to do when I am awed by nature):

“Oh Lord, My God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made”¦
Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee,
How great Thou art”¦”

I imagined the Lord creating the wonders of this canyon with the detail of a sculptor”¦and then something in my mind said, No. What He did was plan this beauty. Millions of years ago, He set in motion the elements with the potential to create something as big and beautiful as the Grand Canyon. Millions of years ago, this was a piece of ground like all other ground, with a stream flowing through it. That stream grew into a mighty river, picking up soil and rocks, eroding and depositing earth, etching its way thousands of feet through the ordinary ground. The earth shook and helped the river to create the intricate beauty of the canyon.

The words Plan and Potential stuck in my mind. God has a plan. He has set the elements in motion to become something amazing that witnesses of Him. This is true in nature and most importantly and magnificently, in humanity. I thought of myself, once a simple zygote, elements set in motion and endowed with an eternal spirit, sent off on my way in this world to become something (someone) amazing that witnesses of my Father—if I let it happen.

I think what would have happened if the canyon were like me, mumbling and grumbling about the discomfort of the river always wearing it down, or the deep and traumatic motions of the earthquakes that would one day make it a wonder of the world. I wondered how many times I have used my agency to interrupt the process God set in motion to make me more like Him?

Over and over that weekend I thought of the Plan and the Potential. As we buried my Grandmother out in the hot, stark dessert of eastern Arizona after a service where we rejoiced in her life, I thought of the Plan. It’s a cycle and it spins pretty fast, and in the end will I have met the Potential? Will I have weathered life with grit and grace like the canyon, and like my Grandma? I want to let it happen. I want to find the right balance of determination to act and faith to step back, stop “white-knuckling” life, and allow the Plan to lead to my Potential.

How do you find the balance?

About Jamie Post Melin

(Editorial Board) was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, educated at UVSC, BYU, and the University of Arizona (BA- English & History), and served in the North Carolina Raleigh mission. While working as a writer/editor and teaching Freshman English, she married a Montana boy. They settled in Livingston (just east of Bozeman in the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains on the Yellowstone River), where she is raising two daughters and a son, and writes to stay sane.

8 thoughts on “Plan and Potential”

  1. Oh Jamie, if I only knew how to find the balance. I love it when you described the resistence to our growth, "white-knuckling" life. I feel like I white-knuckle life a lot. And yet, I think there is mercy and growth even for those of us who do that. We learn eventually how tired we become through resistance and we either let it wear us down, or we are forced to change, and become someone closer to what God wants.

    This was beautiful. I couldn't help but think of the endless car trips to St. George that I took as a child to visit my grandparents. How the color seems to leap out of the ground as you enter the valley. How the heat felt so welcoming, especially along with a bowl of my grandmother's asparagus soup.

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  2. That cycle does spin pretty fast. I kind of feel like I'm on this ladder, and once I get to the top, I've got to jump off. I've watched myself move up rungs, while those before me have leapt off, and some below me have climbed onto the bottom rung.

    Balance for me involves my husband, running, prayer, scriptures, book-club, and chocolate. (well, plus a few more, I'm sure). But those are things that keep me calm and peaceful, more willing to submit to His will. Then there are the known triggers that send me reeling over the edge — not enough sleep, over-scheduling, messy house. I find if I can hold on to the first list of acitivities, it's just sooo much easier for me to press forward with strength and determination.

    And pressing forward, for me anyway, doesn't always involve knowing which direction I'm going. I'm just moving. Always moving. Well, flailing around sometimes, but that's still technically considered movement…

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  3. Maralise…thank heaven for Grandmothers! I can picture the memory you shared of St. George. I've got a soft spot in my heart for scorching heat, too! Justine…you kill me!I love the image of "flailing around," which is how I have felt the past three weeks serving in the Primary Presidency for the very first time. I may have to take up running (well, maybe speed walking at this point–baby steps) to bring my A-Game to Primary! 🙂

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  4. Grit and grace. Can the two really be used in the same sentence? Is that like the good and the bad, the balance? Jamie, that is truly deep.

    I think to understand nature is to understand God, which, we never really will, at least in our earthly life time. I think the more exposure to nature, though, can give us life-changing memories, a gift. It offers a sense of peace and has a therapeutic quality, a calmness. We can learn many lessons through nature, even how we relate to each others. I remember when my kids were young, watching 2 ant colonies fight among themselves. It was the red ants vs. the black ants. They were actually fist fighting each other and I watch for a long time until I needed to fix lunch. Later that afternoon I went back and the ants were carrying away their dead. Wow! What makes them do that? It was something I thought, and still do, about ants. I learn from nature. I ponder best in nature. I calm myself in nature. I study best in nature. (And growing up, we always slept outside.) God is truely amazing in what He has created.

    After all, He created you and me, didn't He?

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  5. I like this a lot, Jamie. I love the idea of plan and potential. Very nice.

    My favorite quote on the Plan of salvation is from Boyd K. Packer, in a talk he gave to CES educators. He says that (I paraphrase) if we can teach our students (or our children, or ourselves) to locate themselves in the context of the plan, we will be immensely strengthened.

    The idea of "plan and potential" is a good way to locate ourselves in God's plan, see where we've come from and what we have the potential to be.

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  6. "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

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  7. One of the interesting things about the Grand Canyon, to me, is the violent nature by which it must have been created. And how when, seen from an aerial view, it does just seem sort of quiet and beautiful.

    Maybe finding the balance comes in this way: when we can stop for a moment and step back, and view our "white-knuckling" trials from a distance. and when we can, like the river, move along with the bends and flows and movement of the land, rather than against it.

    The Grand Canyon too A LONG time to create– to get that beautiful– we need time too.

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  8. For me balance comes in really striving to be grateful. It's hard to resist our Father's participation in our life when I look around and try to recognize the many, many blessings He is granting me every day.

    I haven't been to the Grand Canyon for so many years, but I too am astounded by the beauty of this planet. What a lovely parallel to draw about the creations of our Heavenly Father.

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