The best part about being a writer is imagining how certain exchanges in life could be change if I were a different person.
Don’t get me wrong, most days I like who I am. I don’t believe in regrets. Every moment of every day shapes us into the people we are God ordained to be.
But sometimes I wonder….
What if I’d said this?
What if I’d done that?
What if I were more assertive, flirty, aggressive, competitive?
How would life be different?
Because it would be different.
One of my favorite contemporary authors, Robin Jones Gunn, wrote this in her best-selling Christy Miller series for teens:
“You can drive yourself crazy living in the ‘Land of If Only.’ […] I heard this lady talk once about how you could spend your whole life in the ‘Land of If Only’ by always looking back and saying, ‘If only I’d done this’ or ‘If only I hadn’t done that.’ It can really mess you up if you’re always wishing things were different than they are. She said that when things happen that you don’t understand, you have to believe God is still in control and nothing happens by mistake.”
As a teenager, I took this advice to heart, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized something important about this message. There is a difference between the land of “If Only” and the land of “What If…” The basic premise of trusting God to be in control is sound theology. Whoever I am and whatever I do or don’t do is valuable and as it says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Spending too much time in the land of ‘If Only’ questions the validity of God’s control over my life. This is the last thing I want to do.
But ‘what if’ is beautiful because it gives me a chance to explore different possibilities and build different scenarios to use a God given gift.
An Actual Exchange:
Person: “How are you doing?”
Me: “I’m doing okay. Or, I will be okay.”
Person: “I owe you big time.”
Me: Laughing a little, “No, no. It’s fine. Everything’s good.”
Male Character: “How are you doing?”
Female Protagonist: “I’m okay I think.”
Male Character: “I owe you big time.”
Female Protagonist: “Well, maybe I’ll let you buy me dinner sometime and we’ll call it even.”
The tone of the exchange is completely altered with absolutely no description—the dialogue can change everything and the responses/directions are endless.
The problem: there is a delicate line between ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ and once I cross it, I fall into the sin of ingratitude, which brings me back around to my Lent 2014 challenge of ditching the negative energy and focusing on blessings. The more I do this now, the more habitual it becomes, the thicker the line becomes, and ‘what if’ blossoms into what next.