The Garden of Possibility

Please visit our YouTube channel to watch Rev. Ann Marie’s video recording of this reflection.

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, Alice is talking with the White Queen, who lives in a backwards world where effects happen before their cause. This is massively confusing to Alice, who begins to cry. The queen asks how old Alice is and she responds that she is seven and a half. The queen shares that she is 101 years old, plus five months and one day. (But who’s counting?)

Alice can’t believe the Queen’s age, and they have an exchange about what is possible and what is impossible:

Alice laugh[s]. “There’s no use trying,” she [says], “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” [says] the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for a half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Six impossible things before breakfast. That would make a good motto for an entrepreneur.

Our theme for November is Possibilities. We live in a time with a lot of uncertainty, which can definitely make for a lot of anxiety. But living with uncertainty also means living with a wide range of possibilities. The more up in the air things are in any situation, the greater the chance that something new and different will come out of it.

Here is the thing about possibilities. They could be terrible. But they could be great. They could take away things you’d always counted on, or they might open up whole new worlds you have never considered before. The wider the possibilities, the bigger the adventure.

So, let’s use our imagination to have an adventure. It is still early! 

First, I want to tell you about my stepfather, the man my mother married when I was about to start graduate school. He was quite a character. If you knew him, you would agree that ten impossible things before breakfast and maybe twelve more during the day was his motto. Always thinking of new things to do… new people to meet, new places to go.

I bet you all know someone like that.

Let’s imagine that you and I have launched off on our own EXCITING adventure. We are going to do “church” in an uncertain time. Oh yeah, we’re already doing that. 

But now we are going to do church in a way that imagines all the possibilities for what we can do are wide open. The only rule is that all of us agree to say YES to every new idea. Of course, some ideas might fail to produce anything actionable. But others could open up whole new worlds of growth for us. Growth in numbers. Growth in our ways to be of service to each other and to the world. And, bonus! Just adopting the attitude that this thing we are doing is a great adventure carries with it the potential for immense spiritual growth.

Saying yes to possibilities means employing our imagination. It is imagination that moves us from the realm of the known to the realm of the possible. Or the not-yet-possible. Or the seemingly impossible, which could yet become real.

One way to think about it is to consider how children learn to walk. What do they do? They fall down a lot. And they get back up again and again. 

Why do they get back up? 

Maybe you been there watching children learning to walk. My kids have taught me that most of what they learn is because of a mighty curiosity that motivates them to want to try new things. Perhaps it is not just curiosity, but also desire. There is something they want, and standing up and reaching out or up for that something is the only way they are going to get it.

We can do that too, reach up and out with a YES.

When times are uncertain, we sometimes respond with fear; we try to conserve what we have. We go into survival mode. And we say NO a lot. Don’t rock the boat! Don’t get caught imagining something new or different. Go back to what worked before.

That tendency to conserve, rather than imagine, can be not only stifling, but deadening. 

Entrepreneurs, those who are willing to try new ideas, are almost always confident, hard workers, who imagine six new things before breakfast. And they adjust to what is, and they’re always focused on what can be. They don’t worry about rocking the boat. They jump out of the boat and ride the waves, adapting to change, making what seemed impossible happen.

Let’s live in the adventure, in the magic of the moment. Sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief to see the possible.

The idea of suspending disbelief is as old as the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland. It is as old as the biblical story of the loaves and fishes. Shut down your disbelief that Jesus and his disciples actually fed 5000 hungry people with five loaves and two fish. The story is about learning to say YES to possibilities. The disciples were convinced that the needs of the people outstripped their resources and capabilities. Their conservative response to the challenge was to say, “We are just fishermen in the middle of a desert, and we don’t see a way to do what is being asked of us.”

But what they learned was that it was their vision that was limited. There are always unknown possibilities that exist beyond our present horizon. The story of the loaves and the fishes is a lesson in moving from a mentality of scarcity, where we believe that there isn’t enough to go around, to an attitude of abundance. All our needs will be met. All things are possible. Say yes.

What would it be like to live in possibility? How would that change our thinking and our lives? How would it change how we do church? What would the church be to you if we expected that all things were possible?

They say “only those who can dream learn to fly.”

It is time to dream together. To commit to saying yes to the adventure of the possible.

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