If only my pastor understood me better.
If only we had more team members.
If only we had more inquirers.
If only the parishioners were more involved.
If only the neophytes wouldn’t leave after being baptized.
I want to declare an end to the “if only’s.” “If only” is a millstone. “If only” is an excuse for not soaring.
“If only” is about what’s missing
When we say “if only,” we are focusing on emptiness. We are focusing on what is missing. Focusing on what is missing is tunnel vision. When we look down that tunnel, we can no longer see what we have. We can no longer see what’s possible.
I understand that life is filled with challenges. Some of us are given incredible challenges that are unfair and unbearable. Many of us, though, have smaller challenges. My challenges the are ordinary, everyday challenges that most of us have. The question I have to ask myself is, will I put my life on hold waiting for those challenges to disappear? Will I spend everyday believing that “if only” I didn’t have these challenges, my life would be better?
“If only” kills dreams
Focusing on “if only” keeps us from dreaming. A dream is different than “if only.” A dream is about is about “what if?” A dream is about possibilities.
Here is one way to tell the difference. “If only” feels comfortable. Or if not comfortable, at least it feels safe. A dream feels risky. And also thrilling. “What if?” is empowering. “If only” is debilitating.
Dreams come from God. God created all of us in the image of the divine. Dreams come from that divine spark that is part of the mystery of Incarnation. “If only” comes from ego. It comes from the “original sin” that wounds all of us.
So let’s declare an end to “if only.” It’s not really that difficult. Just imagine a mason jar—the kind your grandmother used for canning peaches. Every time you catch yourself thinking “if only,” pick it up with a pair of tongs and drop it in the mason jar. Screw the lid on tight and leave there where it can’t bother you any more.
Then, with all the new mental space you now have in your head, reach down into your heart, fill up your imagination with your God-given dreams, and ask, “What if?” If you have trouble, if you get stuck, pray for the Holy Spirit to empower you. God wants you to dream. God will give you the strength you need to dream big.
Don’t let a little thing like “if only” get in your way.