I chose “one word” last year—just so I could say I’d done it. It turns out that really, the word chose me. And God proved faithful in my unfaithfulness. Still, though, I saw no reason to choose a word again this year.
There’s only one small flaw to this plan. It’s not one word, but it’s one phrase, and it keeps rising to the surface, pushing its way to the forefront in everything I write. Whether I asked for it or not.
What if we challenge the precepts of our faith? Will it wobble and fall or will it be strengthened with new supports?
What if we ask questions? Maybe we’ll discover the questions don’t matter as much as the process of discovering answers.
What if we strive to build a faith that isn’t precariously balanced on “facts” that are too easily disputed by science and reason? Perhaps we’ll discover new dimensions.
What if we pray as though God is going to say yes?
What if we accept that the flaws in the church as a whole are flaws of man, not of God or of faith? Would we then have more tolerance and inclination to come together?
What if we respect the beliefs of those who disagree with us? Could we maybe have a meaningful dialogue, possibly learn something new?
What if we quit acting like one sin is unforgivable and treat same-sex couples with dignity and love?
What if we set aside all of the “thou shall”s—whether they’re written in stone or catchy lines shouted by televangelists—and ask God to show us which ones matter? Allow Him to rebuild our faith in an authentic, new way?
What if we quit hiding our secrets and our doubts and open up to one another?
What if we’re inadvertently limiting the depths of our belief, the intimacy of our relationship with God, or the power and magnitude of who God really is because we’re not giving Him a chance?
This question may not be the driving force of my year. I may not make an official declaration to seek God’s guidance regularly about this phrase. But I feel it, in that place down deep, in the sacred, secret center of my soul, that it’s time for these questions. Whether you explore them with me or not. Whether I find answers or not. Whether it’s simple or messy, clear or confusing.
What if is rife with hope. Possibility. It implies change, the belief that something else might happen. Perhaps we could change things. Maybe He will reveal things. To some of you who have spent a lot of time within the church, it probably makes you nervous. Feels a little disrespectful. Daring, even. It’s not a statement, ending with a period, finality. It’s not an ellipsis, fading into the unknown. It’s not an exclamation point, shouting the news. It’s a question. Which means that, somewhere, there is an answer. A response is required.
And that’s what lights me up inside. The idea of doing something. Or at the very least, refusing to remain stagnant. Of pushing through the unknown to find something I can, at this moment, only imagine. Because what if I’m on to something? What if He’s simply waiting for us to ask?
What questions do you have? What facts, practices or ideas make you nervous? What precepts of your faith feel wobbly, in danger? What words have people used to push you away from church or make you feel unwelcome? What are you missing? If you’re not comfortable commenting publicly, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll explore some of these questions in upcoming posts—and I welcome guest posts, if you have a topic you’d like to explore here.