The Ghosts of My Potential

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

“Is he dead?” one voice questioned.

“No silly he’s not dead, because if he were then we’d all be dead too, and from the looks of it we’re all still ticking—for now,” a voice replied with slight irritation.

A weary voice chimed in, “We may as well be dead—for eighty years we haven't even seen the light of day. We may exist, but we have never lived, and we never will. He is too old for us now.”

As I heard these voices talking amongst themselves, I slowly began to come to my senses and opened my eyes. “Guys, I think he’s waking up!” a fourth voice announced.

My vision cleared and I slowly began to see. I realized I was lying on a bed in a hospital room. I glanced down and saw how small, wrinkly, and frail my hands and arms were. Suddenly I felt the way I looked—weak, fragile, and scared. Attached to me were several tubes hooked into a machine beside my bed. I then came to realize that there were four identical looking figures standing at the foot of my bed. The only thing uniquely different about each of them was the clothes they were wearing.

“Who are you guys?” I said with a slight tremor in my frail voice.

The four of them turned to look at each other as they began to smile and grin, trying to hold in their apparent laughter. The one in the middle looked at me and said, “Does one not recognize oneself when he looks in a mirror? We are all the same person, yet we are different. Do you have any clue who we are?” He paused for dramatic effect. “We are you old man.” He smiled and continued, “We are who you could have been. Actually, let me correct that— we are who you should have been.” The man said with a voice full of passion.

Squinting to see the physical features of these men, it hit me that this man was telling the truth. These guys are indeed me! They looked identical to what I looked like when I was between thirty and fifty years old. These men were me in my younger years that have long passed away from me. However, I noticed something different in them all—they looked significantly better than the me I remembered. They looked more healthy, joyful, and their eyes were filled with hope. How is this possible? “I don’t understand!” I said aloud in rattled disbelief. “How are you me? I’m me!”

“I think it would help if we introduced ourselves,” the first man said, “I am you as a husband who fiercely loved.”

“I am you as a father who unconditionally loved,” the second man followed.

“I am you as an entrepreneur, who turned his dreams into reality,” the third man said.

“I am you as a leader, who awakened courage within people,” the fourth man concluded.

“Together we are the ghosts of your potential,” they all said in unison.

“But that’s impossible!” I exclaimed. “I never married or had kids, or started any businesses, or led anybody. If you’re all me, then why am I not you?” I cried out in confusion.

“Well, you never brought us to life,” the first man responded. “Remember that girl you had a crush on in college? You never told her your true feelings because you thought you weren’t good enough for her. In fact—you thought you weren’t good enough for anybody, because of that you pursued nobody and stayed single your whole life. If you would have just risked embarrassment and asked her out, things could have turned out more amazing than you could have ever dreamed. You could have been me—a man who married his best friend, remained faithful to her, and became a husband who fiercely loved his wife.”

“With that union, I would have come along,” the second man spoke up. “I am the father who unconditionally loved, supported, and encouraged his children in finding their purpose. A father who gave them a firm foundation by teaching them the Word of God. Instead of this you remained childless, for your fear of failing was stronger than the privilege of fathering.”

“Speaking of teaching,” the third man began. “Do you not remember the books burning in your heart that you wanted to write? All the revelation you had that could have helped so many people? Or how about those business ideas you couldn’t stop thinking about that would have brought you financial freedom? These were business ideas that could have blessed the consumer and changed their lives for the better.” There was weighty silence filling the room followed by a feeling of deep remorse. After a few moments the last man spoke.

“And do you not remember how desperate the Church and the world was for a Godly leader to boldly proclaim the truth, despite the direction the cultural wind was blowing? A leader whose courage awakened the courage within others.” The fourth man paused. “I am that leader—the leader you were destined to be—but never became.”

Aware of everything they had just said was true, I began weeping. “How could I have let this happen?” I screamed. “I am filled with such regret.”

Beep…Beep... Clutching my barely beating heart I feared that my end had now come. All four of the men looked at each other. “He’s dying,” the fourth man said without emotion.

“No, I can’t die yet, I need more time!” I yelled out, grabbing my chest. “Please tell me more. I need to hear more.” My voice was breathless and strained.

For a moment they all looked at me with compassion. They slowly walked towards me and in unison they all said with authority. “Because you did not bring us to life in this world. We must now go to the grave together.”

Still clutching my chest, I looked at them with horror. “No, please no! I’m sorry I didn’t bring you guys to life! I’m sorry I wasted my potential, my dreams, and my purpose! Please no!” I screamed out groping in midair, but to no avail. They closed in on me, as if ready to jump into my soul. I closed my eyes and clenched my fists. The machine keeping me alive was beeping faster and faster until suddenly—silence. My heartbeat dropped back to normal and slowly, I released my grips and opened my eyes to see the room completely empty. “I’m not dead,” I said in relief, “was that a dream?”

“You’re not dead quite yet and that was definitely not a dream.” A man responded firmly, coming out from the corner of the room. He was muscular, handsome, and dressed in black. He looked almost regal, but with a military attitude. As he was getting closer, I realized this man was another version of me! This time though, he didn’t look like the other ghosts. He was darker—not in a bad way, but in an intimidating one.

“Wait, now who are you?” I said nervously.

He didn’t respond right away. He simply paced back and forth at the end of my bed. Finally, after what seemed like hours, he said, “I am the one who could have killed fear. I am the one who could have killed procrastination, excuses, complacency, and mediocracy in your life.”

Confused, I remained silent. He continued, “Those are the things you brought to life instead of us. Those are what you fed into. Those are what you replaced us with (referring to the ghosts of my potential). You kept us inside like prisoners, while allowing fear and all the rest of them to roam free and dictate your decisions.” As he was speaking, he showed me scenes from my life of when I did all of what he was saying. As he continued to speak tears began to well up in my eyes. “Now these things will remain on the earth and will forever be a part of your legacy.”

“Who are you?!” I said angrily through sobbing eyes, holding my chest again. The man stopped pacing and intensely looked straight at me.

“I am the one who could have manifested your desires and dreams into reality. I am the one who could have awakened and brought to life the ghosts of your potential and purpose. If only you would have awakened and brought me to life. I am the ghost—of your courage.”

As soon as he finished speaking, he began transforming into a massive lion, slowly the beast climbed onto my bed getting closer and closer as if preparing to feast upon me. He spoke once more though three inch canines, “Since you kept me contained, I will also follow you into the afterlife haunting your every step, roaring inside of you, ‘UNLEASH ME, UNLEASH ME,’ and you will never be able to, because it will be too late.”

The machine started beeping faster than ever and I knew my heart would fail me this time. I cried out in fear “No, please don’t. I’m sorry. Please just give me one more chance. I can’t die knowing that my life was lived unfulfilled.””

The lion’s legs firmly planted on top of me, his head tilted back, jaws open wide, ready to devour me. I gave one last scream before he extended down with a mighty roar swallowing me whole. Then everything went black...

“Hey son! Wake up. Wake up son!” A man’s voice said as hands grasped my shoulders and shook me violently as if to wake me from the dead.

Slowly opening my eyes, I could see an older gentleman probably in his mid-fifties kneeling beside me. “Oh, thank God you’re okay!” He cried.

“What happened?” I said drunkenly as I reached for my pounding head.

“You were walking down that hill right there,” he pointed to a hill about 15 feet away. “I was driving around that bend right over there,” he pointed to a bend just to the right of the hill. “I didn’t see you and you didn’t see me and well, I hit you with my car,” he said nervously. “You’ve been knocked out for a whole seven minutes! I was hoping you weren’t in a coma.” The man said looking down at the ground. “The first responders are on their way so just sit tight. I truly am sorry,” his voice began to shake and tears began to form in his distressed eyes.

Coming to my senses, I slowly got up and looked at a facility to my right that had caught my attention.

“Hold on young man, maybe you shouldn’t get up just yet.”

“Wait a minute, that's the college I go to,” I said unable to hide my excitement, “and you just called me ‘young man’. How old do I look to you?”

“Well, you couldn’t be more than twenty-five years old I’d say,” the gentleman responded.

“That’s right because I’m only twenty-three!” I screamed in excitement, feeling my youthful self again.

“I don’t understand why you are so happy, I just hit you with my car.” The old man looked greatly disturbed.

I started to laugh, “Sir I just had an experience that is going to change my life forever—actually, it’s going to change many other lives forever.”

The old man sympathetically responded, “I understand a car accident can be a rather life changing experience and I would fully understand if you chose to sue me for the trauma,” the man sadly said.

I laughed once more, “I’m not going to sue you sir. But, let me ask you one thing.”

“Yes, ask me anything,” he said with relief.

Smiling, I looked into his weathered eyes and asked, “Are you living up to your full potential?”

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