Twenty Impossible Things

We shared our hopes and dreams for 2018 around the family dinner table on Christmas Day. Some were crazy big, seemingly impossible dreams, like “peace on earth” or “a safe and warm home for everyone around the world.” Some were related to our jobs, like “I wish we could treat each other with more kindness in my workplace.” And others were more personal, such as, “I need to exercise more in the coming year.”

As we lamented the gravity of major issues facing our world and laughed at the absurdity of some of own fears and foibles, I recalled a quote from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. Carroll was a pen name for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a nineteenth century author, mathematician, photographer, and Anglican priest.

In 1865, Carroll wrote a fantasy adventure for the young daughters of a friend. It was called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The book is about a girl named Alice (the name of one of the daughters), who travels down a rabbit hole into a fantastical underworld. At the beginning of Alice in Wonderland, we find these words, “… so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”

After the amazing success of his first book, Carroll published a sequel six years later called Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Nothing is quite what it seems as Alice continues her adventures. A third of the way through the book, after Alice has already had some incredible experiences, she has a conversation with the White Queen, who says,

“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “One can’t believe impossible things.”

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

I can’t help but believe that the popularity of Lewis Carroll’s books stems from Alice’s conviction that very few things are really impossible. As we enter a new year, what things do you believe are possible that the rest of the world would write off as impossible and foolish? As you ponder the most difficult challenges facing our country and world, how do you believe God is calling you to act? As you pray about the future of The United Methodist Church and the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, how is God asking you to have a heart of peace in the midst of anxiety and fear?

Here is my list of twenty impossible things that I believe and am committed to working on in 2018.

  1. It is possible to live a life of holiness by loving God and our neighbor (which means all neighbors, not just some).
  2. It is possible to see Jesus in everyone we meet, including those who are not like us or those whom we do not like.
  3. It is possible to take a leap of faith and empty ourselves of the need to judge, condemn, or keep score.
  4. When we ask in exasperation or despair, “Are we there yet?” it is still possible to make a commitment to be part of the solution, not the problem.
  5. It is possible to engage in deep listening and dialogue and learn from those with whom we disagree.
  6. It is possible to recognize that the need to win drains us of Holy Spirit power.
  7. It is possible to follow John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules in all that we say or do: do no harm; do good; and stay in love with God.

  1. It is possible to resist the impulse to be oppositional or reactive and instead be a calm, loving presence, even when we have profound differences.
  2. When we are on unplanned journeys that are not of our choosing, or when the journey is taking longer than we think, it is possible to relish the adventure and the opportunity to grow, persevere, learn from failure, and deepen our faith.
  3. It is possible to treat others with the grace and tenderness with which we want to be treated.
  4. It is possible that our disagreements around human sexuality do not have to threaten our unity in Christ in The United Methodist Church as, together, we make disciples of Jesus and transform of the world.
  5. It is possible to let go of old hurts and forgive from our heart.
  6. It is possible to devote our life to reconciliation, just as “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone’s fault against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
  7. It is possible to make a difference by being an encouraging, loving, and healing presence to everyone we meet.
  8. It is possible to open wide our hearts to the needs of all of God’s children in our world.
  9. It is possible to humbly lay aside all of our misconceptions, prejudices, and biases to see people as God sees them.
  10. It is possible to empty ourselves, stand with those at the back of the line, sit with those who have no hope, and walk beside those who see no future.
  11. It is possible to live creatively, compassionately, and hopefully in the midst of change and loss.
  12. It is possible to treat ourselves gently and take the time to nurture our mind, body, and spirit.
  13. It is possible to give, expecting nothing in return.

“One can’t believe impossible things.”

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

“Jesus looked at them carefully and said, ‘It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.’” (Matthew 19:26)

What if we all paused before breakfast every day to practice believing something impossible and then use the rest of the day to make it happen? After all, so many out-of-the-way, out-of-the-box, beautiful, life-giving things happen every day that maybe, just maybe, very few things really are impossible.

7 thoughts on “Twenty Impossible Things

  1. Thank you, Bishop Laurie, for the 20 good “possible” resolutions for 2018–if we believe! I’ll pledge to try!

  2. What a great post for the beginning of 2018. Any one of the twenty impossible things would be life changing. I love the juxtaposition of Lewis Carroll’s words with Jesus’s “with God all things are possible.”

  3. Thanks Laurie. Six impossible things before breakfast! I think you are right that maybe we start with one. I appreciate the encouragement.

  4. At age 77, I have never seriously considered making a New year’s resolution. You have beautifully and succinctly articulated twenty “possibilities”. Thank you for reminding me that “with God all things are possible” and for giving me renewed purpose.

  5. Thank you, Bishop Laurie, for these encouraging and inspiring words. I look forward to and get so much from your posts. I pray blessings upon blessings to you and yours, and for ‘impossibilities made possible’ for the UMChurch in the Year of our Lord, 2018.

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