The Two Most Terrible and Powerful and Wonderful Words

Posted on October 4, 2012


What if…

Asking “What if?” is so powerful because it imagines future possibilities that doesn’t make sense given the evidence of the present.

And I need “What if?” I need to imagine a future that is different from the past. I need forgiveness and grace and a second chance. I want reconciliation and sanctification. I want to be redeemed, renewed, and transformed by love. I want to know that the darkest hour is right before dawn. I want to know that the storm clouds will pass. I want to ask, “What if?” again and again with a sense of playful wonder because I believe part of what it means to be a Christian is that we are “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17)

But I hate “What if?” too. It keeps me awake at night worrying about one of my kids being bullied. After every one of my daughter’s bloody noses, “what if?” makes my first thought always: it’s leukemia. It convinces me we’ll always have student loans, an insignificant savings account, and need to stretch to take a vacation. “What if?” convinces me that this is best things will ever be, that it can only get worse, and that dreaming is only disappointment waiting to happen.

The Holy Spirit plays a role in shaping our lives, but we participate. We are the architects of our own future. We see something in our mind before we see it in our lives. I’m not saying we need to “name it and claim it” or “pull down our miracle” but throughout history people have needed to see possibility within problems before finding solutions. This is how advances are made in science, medicine and art. People have asked “What if?”

What if there was a better way to harvest cotton? What if I carved huge faces out of a mountain? What if I jumped out of a balloon in outer space? What if I loaned small amounts of money to business people in poor countries? What if I didn’t let my body stop my brain? What if I believed television could help children?

“What if?” can be a kind of incantation, opening a world of possibilities. Write them on a piece of paper or on a public whiteboard and see if people can resist finishing the sentence. (Similar to this.)

Speak them aloud and wrap your world in a chrysalis of possibility. Wonder “What if?” and a string of further questions may upset the balance of your life in a beautiful way. Ask “What if?” and you may need to wrestle with your hopes, fears, and sense of self.

If you struggle through a “What if?” you might emerge the same person you have always been or you might find you’ve grown wings.

Here are a few of my “what if?” questions:

What if God is real, present, and loves me?

What if I could get paid to do what I love?

What if death is not the end? What if it is?

What if I have another child?

What if the moved churches, homes, jobs, states, countries?

What if I wrote that crazy novel?

What if I said, “I’m sorry.”

What if I asked for help?

What if I ran even further?

What if I tried?

What if my church needs to change and I need to start it?

What if I stop caring about what people thought about my clothes, home, and how funny I am?

What if my kids get sick?

What if I only have 5 years left to live, but will find this out in 4?

What if the world is a dream?

What if nothing I think is important, really is?

What if I’m wrong?

…But what if I’m right?

What’s your “what if”?

photo: fox_kiyo

Posted in: Prayer, risk