In ministry for me most of the fun, scary, God-inspired big endeavors have come from asking What If? One of my colleagues taught me this. What if we found new ways to feed and welcome the hungry? What if we had a large community-wide women’s ministry designed to replenish women’s souls? What if we actually took food for hungry kids to the schools? What if we helped children in need so extensively that one church couldn’t do it alone and we had to make it a community effort?
I love asking that question as a way of inviting God’s Spirit into a project. It has always helped me think big and to get out of my own way.
But I’ve noticed the same question, used in another context, can lead me down dark, scary, anxious pathways. Do you ever ask What If, but then end up filling in the rest of that question with your worst imaginings? A medical diagnosis can start that game. The doctor says You have _________ . Maybe you go to Dr. Google at that point and read all the things. What if, what if, what if…? Maybe a good milestone happens, a marriage, a pregnancy, a new job, a graduation but then you say but what if____________ (fill in all the bad things here.)
Our beautiful, creative, imaginative minds can take us off on non-helpful tangents. I think the older we are, the more we’ve seen and we KNOW tough things do happen. Fred’s sister’s ex-husband had that happen. Be careful, beware, oh my. We wring our hands and worry.
Writer Anne Lamott wrote that she prefers to switch that question, when scary, from What If? to What Is? With only the change of one tiny lower case letter you can go from all kinds of fear to the present moment. Ask yourself instead, What Is? What is, is this fine spring day. What is, is how I currently feel. What is, are the people I love being okay.
My yoga teacher says if you can feel your hands and your feet you are grounding yourself in the present moment. Sometimes I need to pause, check my hands and feet and ask, What Is?
In the Jesus Calling devotional for today, Sarah Young writes, Most of the situations that entangle your mind are not today’s concerns; you have borrowed them from tomorrow. In this case, I (God) lift the problem out of today and deposit it in the future where it is veiled from your eyes. (May 11 entry) We absolutely do not need to borrow trouble from tomorrow. We cannot possibly know what will happen then. Place your what ifs in God’s hands and veil them from your eyes and dwell in the land of what is. Peace lives there.
Thank God for the gift of inspirational women like Sarah Young and Anne Lamott. Together they are coaxing us to change one tiny letter What If? to What Is? and to live this day, here and now, in God’s peace.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. To read more blogs, see upcoming speaking events, learn about the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts live at 7 a.m. CST each Tuesday or to sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle monthly email, go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com.