I feel like I do some of my best thinking and reflecting while out on a run. And while I was running yesterday a few stanzas from the Coldplay song, What If? really stuck out to me…

What if you should decide
That you don’t want me there by your side
That you don’t want me there in your life

Ooh ooh-ooh, that’s right
Let’s take a breath, jump over the side
Ooh ooh-ooh, that’s right
How can you know it, if you don’t even try
Ooh ooh-ooh, that’s right

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake
It could bend or it could break
That’s the risk that you take (Coldplay, What If?)

The song stuck out to me for several reasons…

  1. There is a great amount of relational anxiety in the relationship being described.  The artist doesn’t know if the person will be there by their side…it’s an option the other person has, completely out of the control of the other.  The artist doesn’t know if they will “bend or break”…and there is an element of risk involved.  The risk involves anxiety, but to not push through the anxiety may forfeit the opportunity for the relationship and for growth.
  2. As people we love the words and songs of poets and artists.  We love the songs about relationships, especially ones that involve an element of risk and not knowing.  We wonder, “Will that person be there on the other side” in the romance movies we watch and the songs that we sing.  BUT, we don’t like to have this experience ourselves.  It’s all fine and dandy to sing about and to watch on the silver screen, but when it comes to taking these risks and venturing forth through the anxiety in our own relationships, we often choose to sit on the sidelines, seeking comfort and security.
  3. This is the predicament of all relationships.  At some point you will have a choice before you…two options (marriage and sex therapist David Schnarch refers to it as Two-Choice Dillemas).  Do you stay in the place of comfort and safety which is actually a threat to your relationship, or do you venture out into the unknown, facing the anxiety, hoping for growth in the relationship.

These reasons make us all ask “What If? in our relationships, our families, our faith, our vocations and more.

I love how David Schnarch puts it:

How do you find the trust to go “exploring” with your spouse? Many couples think it’s based on safety and security, which means staying in the comfort cycle. Trust can be based on a pact you’ll never leave the inner circle (comfort/safety), or developed from a trip through the growth cycle. But the trust that results is totally different: before you’ve ventured into the outer circle (growth), trust is based on blind faith. It lacks the safety and security of knowing how you’ll do when “what if” happens; it is an uneasy trust, an untested trust. What’s actually required is the leaf of faith, because real safety follows rather than precedes your first trip through the growth cycle. Trust based on shared mutual experience and hardship–watching what your partner and you do under pressure and adversity–is solid and resilient. (Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch)

So hold onto yourself, face your anxiety and take the leap knowing that if you don’t, then you may also forfeit any opportunities for relational and spiritual growth.

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs in this dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science will explain. (The Concept of Anxiety by Soren Kierkegaard)