One Brave Question That’s As Big As God

I gotta be honest: I’m overwhelmed right now. Going back to work was the cherry on top of a week with more than the usual mayhem. In our world, there are always a million plates spinning, and this past week was no exception. There were our church’s summer interns moving in, two weddings (officiated by Josh) in six days, and a return to work, leaving Josh with the two littles on his own for the first time.

All the while, I tried not to cry as I settled back into my working girl life. So needless to say, I’ve felt a little edgy and anxious the past few days.

But two words have been an anchor yanking me back into God’s reality when I threaten to float off into pessimism and fear. It’s one terrifying simple question: What if? 

I’ve asked this question before, stood in awe of its enormity, kind of like when you stand along the ocean shore and can’t help but get lost in the hugeness.

[click photo for credit]

“What if?” is an infinite question, as big as God. “What if?” never ends, really, and that’s what I love about it.

Two weeks ago, a friend and I decided we would start asking “What if…?” about everything in our lives – our families, our jobs, our finances, our relationships, our time, our futures. Then we planned to reconvene in two weeks to see what we came up with.

As soon as I started asking the question, I could sense one certain thing: I was still dreaming too small. 

I went to our weekly church prayer meeting later that week. I avoid prayer more than I want to admit for because sometimes I forget prayer is a conversation, not a one-sided monologue where I have to listen to myself complain for 30 minutes – boring. Once I remember that God actually talks back, I decide to show up. And so I did, a little reluctantly, but I was there.

I pulled out my sketchbook where I’ve been storing my “What ifs?” and asked God the question, “What happens to a person, place, thing or idea when the Kingdom of Heaven touches it?”

As I wrote out a few ideas, I soon heard him over the static, the simply profound wisdom I could never come up with on my own:

Don’t tell God “What is.” Ask him, “What if?”

I wrote the phrase, “What is” and then crossed out the one letter that made the difference, changing the “s” to an “f”. [See the video below.] With that one tiny change, the dismal, despairing status quo we all find ourselves in opened up to let in the God of the Impossible.

Don’t tell God “What is.” Ask him, “What if?”

God exists in the Not Yet. “He calls things that are not as though they are.” That’s how the world got here, and that’s what faith is, the assurance, the certainty of whatever we’re hoping for.

But way before the faith, before the hope, there is imagining. And in order to imagine, in order to access the infinite possibility of God and all his God-ness, we have to do something wildly courageous. We have to ask “What if?”

This means our prayers expand beyond telling God “What is”, wasting all our prayer time commiserating with ourselves about the status quo, and instead, letting the impossible ruin our “What is” for “What could be”.

“What if?” isn’t simply dreaming words. They are the first two words in a prayer you would never have been brave enough to pray before. When we ask “What if?” we let ourselves dream. We give God permission to influence the outcome. When I say, “What if…?, I can follow it with, “Please, do that God.”

I’m getting braver and braver every time I ask it, but I have to push past fear every time. Who am I to ask for impossible things? Nevertheless, the courage is growing. When I run into something in my life that is not as it should be, I ask “What if?” and the ceiling opens up.

Here are a few of my most recent What Ifs?:

What if we paid off all our debt and could give 50% of our income to missions?

What if we raised our children with so much love and confidence that they didn’t succumb to negative peer pressure but instead were the leaders and influencers wherever they went?

What if our church hosted a First Friday event and involved the whole city?

What if my writing and speaking could support me financially and I could stay home with my kids and do the work I love?

What if my brothers could know and love God like I do, but more?

What if there was a wild revival in our city, transforming the local economy and government, eliminating poverty and demolishing the crime rate?

Why not join me? Make a list of your Top 5 or Top 10 What Ifs? Go big. Be scared. Dream when you ask, and then dream bigger. God is infinite. So What if? 

Write your What Ifs in the comments below, or send me an email at scsiders (at) yahoo dot com. I would love to hear what you and God are dreaming up. 

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