“Funderburks don’t say can’t.”
This is a favorite saying of my husband’s that I have heard repeatedly over the last 17 years. It’s been used to help me take small risks, like riding a mountain bike or accepting a promotion. But it also popped into my head when I was scared about bringing a child into the world. I’ve heard him say it when my kids were scared to try something new, and then I watched them get over their fears too. I now find myself repeating it every time I face a challenge.
But I’ve really been taking it to heart lately, as I’ve started getting deeper into God’s Word. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Nothing is impossible with God”. And that is so true. My favorite verse about this is from Mark 9:23.
“’If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Jesus seems appalled that we even use the word IF when we ask for His help. So I’ve come to understand that it’s not just “Funderburks don’t say can’t”, it’s “Christians don’t say can’t.”
Easy for me to say, right? But I’ve seen so much proof of this in my life, and in others’ lives, that I no longer doubt it. It’s like breathing for me. It’s just the way it is.
So how do you get there? How do you actually start making changes, especially the big ones that seem so overwhelming? The ones that make the word CAN’T part of your daily vocabulary?
I struggled with that for the better part of 15 years. I had plenty of dreams. Plenty of things I wanted to do. Plenty of things I knew God wanted me to do. But I almost laughed them off. That’s crazy, I would tell myself. I can’t do that!
Thankfully, God has completely changed my thinking. Even though I was doubtful, He gave me some tools and some people to shake me out of that “safe” way of living, to show me His power.
The first one involved taking a minor leap. I went away on a women’s retreat called Campowerment with my best friend. You’re probably thinking, big deal–you went away for a weekend, that’s not hard. But for me it really was. I struggled leaving my kids and my husband for a long weekend because I already felt like I didn’t spend enough time with them – it felt selfish. I struggled spending that much money on just me – it felt selfish. And I thought I wasn’t the type of person who liked to focus on all that “self-help” stuff – it felt silly, and well, selfish. But I am so glad I pushed through all that “I can’t” thinking, because that is where I was exposed to Marni Nir.
Marni is a life coach, but you’d never guess it. The girl can’t open her mouth without a curse word flying out, but apparently that is exactly what it took to get my attention. I won’t give away her entire spiel, because I sincerely hope you get to meet her someday. But the major lesson I learned from her was that changes weren’t happening in my life because I was blocking them. I was making up a million excuses, and then actually seeking out those bad theories, just to prove that I was right. I needed to stop collecting evidence for why I can’t, and start proving that I can. Let go of false evidence.
One of the stories I was telling myself was that I couldn’t make a change because of what “they” might think. Martha Beck, one of my favorite authors and life coaches, helped me to see how false that story really is. In her book, Finding Your Own North Star, she guides you through several exercises to figure out who “they” are and face what you have convinced yourself “they” think. The reality is that most of these people don’t even notice what you are doing, and if you try to remember times when they actually said what you imagine they are thinking, you can’t think of one example. And if someone has actually said it, it’s up to you to decide if what they think is true or not. Let go of false impressions.
Another story I was telling myself was that if I made these changes, the worst would happen. Catastrophes like bankruptcy, homelessness, starvation. And I would take down my entire family with me. So they would hate me. And I would ruin our lives. So I would hate myself. But God had an answer for that too. I needed examples of people making changes in their lives where everything turned out just fine, maybe even better than fine. Right around that time, my best friend happened to give me Lara Casey’s book, Make It Happen. That woman made some scary leaps of faith! Things most of us would consider crazy, like quitting a job with absolutely no savings and no back up plan. But God caught her, dusted her off, and made her life even better. She didn’t die. She didn’t become homeless. She was fine. And that’s exactly what I needed to realize. That I would be fine and my family would be fine. And that my definition of fine needed to be revised from “extremely well off” to “necessities met”. Let go of false expectations.
Even armed with all of this training and knowledge, I still wasn’t quite ready to jump without a backup plan. But what I started doing instead was playing out my worst fears and planning out how I could react to those awful things. Being prepared was my weapon against fear. The example I’ll give you is when my husband wanted to start his own business.
Why was that so scary to me? Because if he quit his job, and the business didn’t take off right away, we might run out of money! And if we ran out of money, we could lose our house! And then we’d be homeless! This is how my mind would run straight to catastrophe, making up excuses (as Marni would say) and worrying what people would think of our failure (as Martha would say).
Ok, fine, let’s play this out and prepare! What if we really did lose our house? Would we actually be homeless? NO. Because the reality is that I could name a handful of people who would take us in without a second thought. And would we get back on our feet? YES. Because my husband may have to give up his dream for a while, but he’s capable of finding another job doing SOMETHING. Or we would sell our house and downsize. And if money is what I’m worried about, I can focus on our budget and create a cushion for this BEFORE we wind up living with someone else! So you can start to see the plans formulating that can combat that WORST FEAR EVER. And suddenly, it’s not actually that scary anymore.
All of this sounded great, but it was still just words to me. I am motivated by action. I needed to DO something. I needed to SEE results. I’ll never be great at just jumping from cliffs. It’s too huge. But what I have learned instead, is to back up from the cliff, sometimes miles back, and take the little steps that I can handle. In this example of my husband quitting his job to start a business, I backed all the way up to our budget. Nobody’s quitting their job here (cliff!), I’m just looking at a spreadsheet (miles away)! Getting control of our finances needed to be done anyway! Making a big leap or not, we could only benefit from tightening things up a bit. So we started there. One week at a time, spending less and giving up things we didn’t need. We built up a small cushion and practiced living on one salary.
Before long, things were getting downright miserable at my husband’s company, which was trickling into our family life. We needed to take the next step toward our cliff and let my husband actually quit his job. This is where I learned the most important lesson of all in how to make a real change. We had done everything we could to make this dream happen, but we were still short several hundred dollars a month. I had to admit we couldn’t do this on our own. It didn’t matter how bad we wanted it, or how hard we tried, or how much I prepared. We needed God. I was a weak Christian at best back then. This was hard for me to admit. I was used to handling everything on my own! I had come this far in figuring out how to survive the changes. I justified it by saying “God gave me the resources to handle this. I trust Him by trusting myself.” But the reality was we needed God. So I prayed. “Please God, if this is what you want us to do, please show me how this is going to be okay.” The doubt in my heart added a silent, “If you can.”
“’If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
So I let go of control. I decided to actually believe. In Him, not me.
For real this time.
And you know what happened? My fear vanished. Peace replaced it. Confidence. I told my husband to quit his job because we were going to be fine. I just knew it. So he quit. And on the exact day that he quit, I was offered a raise. It was exactly enough to give us the several hundred dollars a month that we needed to be okay. It was God showing us His grace. The rewards that are waiting for us if we just believe and trust in Him.
So how do you make a change? You let go.
Let go of false evidence.
Let go of false impressions.
Let go of false expectations.
And most importantly,
Let. Go. Of. Control.
If it seems too huge and overwhelming, back up from the cliff until you see a small piece that you can handle. And just do that small piece for today. You can do another piece tomorrow. God did give you capability and resources. Use them to the best of your ability. But then pray, and leave the impossible parts to Him.
I realize I have barely scratched the surface on this. If you need more, I highly recommend following the resources that have helped me along the way (they are linked throughout the text above). If you get lost, pray. God will lead you back to your path. All you have to do is let Him.