Choosing the Impossible

I’m so grateful that abby mohaupt is sharing with us today as a guest blogger on Smuggling Grace. abby carved out an intentional season to try impossible things, and powerful stories have emerged. You are invited you to read the photo captions as part of the rest of the text.

It started on Easter. My partner and I went to celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus with a local church in the morning, and in the afternoon, we released the ashes of our recently deceased sweet cat into the ocean.

I watched the waves carry her out into the open, and it felt like we’d done the impossible, letting go.

I remembered my years as a pastor preaching and teaching on Easter, claiming that this pivotal day in our Christian calendar is God’s promise that the impossibility of life is conquering death

–that death does not have the final say. The impossible is possible.

As Christians, we’re called to believe the impossible. I began to wonder if we’re also called to live the impossible.  What might it be like to do impossible things between Easter and Pentecost? How would I change?

I started out wanting to do an impossible thing every day.

I had hard conversations with people… entering into dialogues which were vulnerable and honest. I tried to be unafraid. I worried that I would come across as angry or negative, instead of clear. After a couple of these conversations, I realized that these hard conversations weren’t impossible, just hard.

In the meantime, I deepened relationships with several colleagues and friends over conversations and explorations that we otherwise wouldn’t have had together. (Also, I learned to say “you are driving me crazy” in a life-giving way, and I learned to stand up for myself more than once.)

And after a couple more, they just felt real.

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I pushed myself physically too, looking for joy while I run… and being more mindful about who I am in the world, and coming up with impossible goals for exercise. The more I ran, the more joy I found. And one week I took 100k steps in five days. The second time I did that particular impossible thing, it was easier, and I realized that I was conditioning myself—that the more I did the impossible, the easier it became.

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I began to think I was in training for a big impossible thing. And it became less important that I did an impossible thing every day… and more important that I keep an eye out for the opportunity to try.

As my impossible muscles stretched and moved, I thought about perspective and power and possibility. When I was in Washington, DC, it was painfully obvious that a lot of what I do on a regular basis (fly across the country, for example) is impossible for so many people.  I felt like my brain was being trained to think outside of my own experience… to re-think exactly what I mean by the impossible.

And I wondered if God is God and I am not, who am I to do the impossible?

Still, I thought a little about my capacity to do the impossible. And there were still things I couldn’t do (like yell at a white male staffer in DC who was totally rude to my African American BFF or plan to bring my sister-by-choice to the San Diego Zoo to see the pandas because it could jeopardize her immigration papers). But my power and privilege changes my sense of  those limitations and my capacity to exercise my ability to do the impossible.

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Later I discovered what I thought was going to be the biggest impossible thing. In April, I accepted a spot in a PhD program Drew University, which means I’ll leave a job I love working with people I love. To do this, I’ll move across the country, away from my partner and start something new. It felt scary but also exciting… and like I was crossing the finish line at my first half marathon. And just like a marathon finish—it feels a little less impossible now that it’s done.

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Weeks later, after a few more hard conversations and refusing to work on my days off, on one of my long runs, I began to think.

I realized that more than a decade I’ve spent trying to forgive one person in my life and the last two years trying to forgive another two people—

I spent a few miles thinking about how my inability to forgive that old hurt had let the new hurt emerge. But that old hurt was huge—it changed the course of my life and changed almost all the relationships in my life at the time. That old hurt welled up in me, with anger and fear and hopelessness.

And at point on that run, I said to myself, “I think forgiving this person is impossible.”

I stopped midstride.

Impossible was the point of this season of my life.

I started to think about what it would mean to forgive and what and who I really needed to forgive. And I began to think about where that forgiveness needed to take place.

And so I found myself back at the ocean.

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On the way home from that trip to the sea, I thought about how far I’d come since Easter. I thought about how little I understood about the impossibility of Easter before I tried to do the impossible.

And then suddenly, from the shadows of some memory, came a passage from “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carrol:

“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 younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Believing in and practicing the impossible takes practice. When we try the impossible little things, we prepare ourselves for the great big impossible things we can’t imagine. And I can’t wait for that next impossible thing.

-Abby Mohaupt

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abby mohaupt is a teaching elder in the pcusa. she loves coffee, long distance running, and jesus. she keeps a bag of crayons in her bag at all times. sometimes she blogs at www.featheology.org

In the season of Pentecost, I am creating blog series that spotlights individuals, communities, organizations, and churches that are pursuing creative, new ideas.

See also. . .

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