Have we lost our capacity for imagination as Christians? Have we assigned imagination to child’s play but now of course we are adults so we set aside childish ways? Imagination is about pretend, we all know that. We use our imagination for fantasy. Imagination takes us into the world of the improbable and the impossible. Adult life has to face what is real and not engage in some imaginary goose chase. So this is how many have come to think about imagination.
Could there be more to imagination than what we imagine? Imagination is a faculty or capacity of the mind. We all use our imagination. We can imagine a relaxing vacation at the beach, a positive outcome to a difficult conversation, or a family living in peace. When we look at the way Jesus taught, it seems like he invited us to regularly use our imagination. The prodigal son story, or when he says “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,” or in his parable of the sower, or even his statement “I am the way . . .” All invite us to use our imagination. Paul seems to invite the use of our imagination as well in his theological teaching when he speaks of our be baptized in Christ and our being raised in him. He further instructs us to set our minds on things above where Christ is seated. All this and more invites imagination.
Reason helps us to discern what is true. Imagination which is intertwined with faith enables us, as CS Lewis argued, to discover and know meaning. Imagination isn’t just about pretend or fantasy. Quite the contrary, without imagination we would never truly know reality. Reason allows me to observe my world and draw some conclusions from the world’s beauty and complexity for instance. Imagination helps me see God’s eternal power and deity is manifest in all of God’s created order. Imagination helps us to see and know more.
Imagination plays an essential role in our reading of Scripture and our ability to enter the story of God. We can imagine ourselves with Christ and listen to him as he teaches and observe him as he heals. Imagination that is educated and structured in God’s word becomes a real source for discerning in relationships and in problem solving. Imagination is most important in our spiritual life because it can assist in fostering experiences of God’s presence. Perhaps it is time for all of us to consider that imagination is a gift from God for our spiritual journey. And this gift actually assist us in knowing what is most real! Imagine that!