What If?

My husband was away recently for a few days of out-of-town work and instead of going to sleep at reasonable hour, I stayed up and binge read the blog of a writer I’d heard interviewed earlier that day. I read her entire blog–all five years of it–over the course of two late nights. (Because what sane woman would need a good night’s rest when everyone in the family is just a wee bit off because a Key Member of the Household is gone?)

On the bleary-eyed morning after the first night, I staggered down the hall, through the dark living room, and before my foot hit the kitchen’s wood floor, my apparently alert brain asked me a question: What if {a situation I’d been discouraged about} isn’t actually {the name I’d given it}? 

What if?

Back in college, my Children’s Lit and Creative Writing instructors said that the What if question is the basis for a compelling story. What if water from a spring hidden deep in the woods made people live forever? (Tuck Everlasting) What if an American man from the 1800s found himself in Arthur’s Camelot? (Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court) What if a mysterious wardrobe that transported children to a magical world in which an epic battle between good and evil took place among mythical creatures? (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Compelling stories have all the usual elements of fiction: characters, setting, theme, conflict, and plot. Our stories, the ones we live out every day, are no different. Every element is there and together they give shape to our story.

Our lives have characters (family, friends, neighbors, enemies), a setting (the unique circumstances and situations in the places where our lives are lives out), conflicts, overarching themes, and plot (what the story is really all about and who the enemy really is). Our understanding of every one of those elements is affected by that simple question: What if?

What if I took a risk?
What if I waited?
What if I stayed calm?
What if I just took a walk? or a nap? or a bath?
What if I wasn’t distracted?
What if I listened?
What if I loved?
What if I believed, hoped, and endured all things?
What if I believed, period?
What if I didn’t worry?

Who of us doesn’t want to live a good story, one that matters?

To ask the What if question isn’t all that difficult. To answer it, though, can be the starting point of a transformational journey, one that begins at the fork in the road between The Way I am (or even The Way I See It) and The Way It Could Be.

The way I am is familiar and comfortable. The Way It Could Be requires a step onto a foreign and strenuous path covered with trip-hazards and obstacles, a trail that will surely leave us bruised and maybe even a little bit broken. It is, however, the starting point of the most compelling stories.

So let’s ask. What if?

Sharing stories today with the writers at Small Wonders.

4 thoughts on “What If?

  1. Being Woven says:

    “What if?”… A question I rarely ask. That seems odd to me. I am very curious but I like the questions of “How?” … “What?” …”Where?… “When?” but even the “Whys?” don’t get asked much. You have given me much food for thought, Natalie. As I type, I am smiling to myself wondering why I do not ask those questions like the others. The “what if” and “why” questions leave so much room for the unknown whereas the others can be found in books and encyclopedias and the internet. Aahhh! The stuff that is already discovered whereas those hard questions are just that…hard. They require me to sit still and ask God for direction. I must be patient for those answers. This is VERY INTERESTING!!! : )
    A near-neighbor @ Small Wonders….this is more that a “small” wonder!
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

    • Natalie says:

      Interesting, the questions we ask, isn’t it? As is the how we ask them. The comments here have given me much to think about, too. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Lyli @ 3dlessons4life.com says:

    I love a good story. For me, what if questions can have positive and negative connotations. Sometimes, I just ask too many what ifs from that crabby place in my soul that is discontent. Other times, I look up and see possibilities, and my soul smiles “what if” and believes that anything is possible.

    • Natalie says:

      Such a good point, Lyli. What if questions have the portential to quite negative and that negativity plays out differently for all of us. In my life I think they are most negative–and dangerous– when they are assumptions disguised as questions. Asked with hope and in faith, they’ve been a game changing fiend. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts here today.

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