Growing up, my siblings and I had a narrow summertime wardrobe: pajamas and bathing suits. Our days were spent playing in our backyard pool—Marco Polo, DIY whirlpools, and cannonball contests. These were fun and relaxing days, but life wasn’t all carefree for me.
I learned how to worry at a young age. I still remember one of those backyard pool days when my siblings and I were swimming well into our usual dinnertime. We’d be called out of the pool when Dad came home from work, but he was late that night. Eventually, I hopped out and ran to the open kitchen window to talk to my mom.
“Mom, where’s Dad?” I asked as she prepared dinner. “I don’t know,” she responded casually. “I’m sure he’ll be home any minute,” she added.
My heart sank. What does she mean she doesn’t know? Why would he be late? This doesn’t happen—he’s never THIS late. The days before cell phones left a lot of unknowns as instant communication was not always possible. Growing increasingly worried, I returned to my mom.
“Mom,” I tried to act unaffected, but the nature of my question instantly gave me away. “What if Dad is in a car accident? Would the ambulance call us to let us know?” These were such big and scary questions for a little girl’s heart.
My dad ended up being fine, though stuck in unusually terrible traffic. Today, over two decades later, the content of my anxious questions may have changed, but their nature remains the same. What if the diagnosis is grim? What if we can’t keep up with those bills? What if that natural disaster wipes out half the world? What if my dad is in a car accident?
Nearly four years ago, I was sitting with some friends at their kitchen table, dreaming out loud about what I wanted to do with my life. “I want to write!” I told them, smiling at the mere thought of it. “I don’t even care if no one reads my writing except for my mom! I just want to write.”
My friends looked at me with bright eyes before one of them spoke. “What if,” he said slowly, “you had your own website where you could share your writing?” The idea may not seem earth-shattering, but it blew me away. “Me? I can do that? I can just buy a little spot on the Internet and write there whenever I want?”
Cruising on the adrenaline of the whole idea, I ran with it. That day I purchased my very first URL. I had a blog. I didn’t care if my mom would forever be my only reader because I had finally grasped the opportunity to do something I really deeply loved to do.
There are two directions I can go with my what if’s. I can let the question scare me, or I can let it move me. The ones that scare me aren’t actually for me anyway. They’re really scary because they are out of my control. Those what if’s are the ones I don’t have to worry about because the wellbeing of all the world does not rest on my shoulders. I can leave the scary questions to my Creator because He’s the one who is capable of bringing to life what once had been put to death. God doesn’t need me to ache over what if; He only needs me to know that, in every season, He is. He is the Comforter; He is Peace; He is Life.
The better questions are the ones that move me. These are the questions that are within my control—the ones that call forth boldness and courage.
What if I started my own blog? What if I pursued that degree? What if I moved for that job opportunity? These are the questions that infuse more life within me. They inspire me; without questions like these, how would I ever come to take the risks that push me towards my passions?
The anxiety-laden questions that I cannot answer only take life away from me. I couldn’t control my dad’s safety when I was six, and I still can’t do it today. I do my best to lay those worries at the feet of Jesus and, instead, try to ask better questions. These are the questions I can respond to—the ones that bring a sense of excitement and anticipation into my life. It is, after all, the best what ifs that invite us to live big and passionate lives. When we live into the questions we can act on, the wildest adventure just might unfold before us.
Mallory ‘Larsen’ Redmond received her master’s degree in Theology & Culture from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. Recently married to her husband, Darren, she is enjoying this new season of life as a wife and writer. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.