A question for your weekend.

(First published at levite.wordpress.com on April 19, 2010.)

What if…

That’s the beginning to five questions I asked two groups to write over the weekend.

A couple weeks ago, Don Miller invited people to quickly write five “what if” statements on a notepad. Not the kind of “what if” statements that end with “she hadn’t left” or “I had studied harder” or “I hadn’t taken that last piece of cake.” Those are about regrets, about things that can’t be changed. They are the kind of statements that lead to “what if I spent the rest of my life wishing that hadn’t happened.”

andrew looking for a wedding suitMiller was inviting us to ask the kind of “what if” questions that make this “the single most powerful question you can ask,”  the kind of “what if” that a novelist asks when writing about a character: What if Dick and Jane get bitten by Spot on the way to the playground? What if Andrew asks Allie to marry him?

When we ask that question of our lives, it can change things:

  • What if I write a book?
  • What if I get up early every day?
  • What if I can’t use my hands anymore?

Those questions can lead to actions, to plans, to changes, to choices.

I liked the idea. I didn’t do anything with it. Until he challenged me (and everyone else who reads his blog) with the “What if” challenge. So I made the group I lead on Saturday night and the class I teach on Sunday morning take the challenge. I read his post. I gave everyone note cards. I gave them time. And they answered. (The three “What if” examples came from those groups. )

For the larger group, the class on Sunday, I gave some help:

  • What if I finally…
  • What if I really believed that …
  • What if I didn’t worry about …
  • What if I asked …

Both conversations were great. I’m looking forward to hearing what happens next. We’ll be asking again in our group this Saturday. Because that’s the real challenge.

To find out what happens if you lose thirty pounds. Or you say “I’m sorry.” Or you invite everyone over for a couple days.

You in? What if you were?


By the way, I now wear the suit that Andrew eventually bought for his wedding. I’ve lost 45 pounds to get to where he was, he’s lost 20 of his own.  What if you could wear your son’s hand-me-ups?

2 thoughts on “A question for your weekend.

  1. Susan Pieters

    Usually a writer complicates his “what if” with a “but…” It adds conflict. Like, what if I really believed in Jesus’ love and forgiveness, but I struggle with addiction? Like, what if Paul really believed Jesus was returning soon, but He didn’t? Or, what if I really am a talented novelist but I first give my time over to my kids and volunteer work?
    The third part of the writer’s “what if” statement is how they overcome the obstacle, and instead of a simple sentence, it usually works out to 100,000 words or so… It is the rest of the story, and the rest of our lives.
    P.S. So congratulations on wearing your son’s suit, and overcoming your obstacles in the long term!


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