Human beings have the extraordinary capacity to dream and imagine. Our brains can create realities in our minds, inner worlds that appear to us as “real” as any other world. This faculty of imagination is the primary arena in which God works to shape our lives. God speaks to us not merely by telling us facts we ought to believe, but by telling us stories and giving us visions that fire our imaginations and allow us to see the world, and ourselves in new ways.
Jesus taught in parables – almost exclusively. “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” Mark 4:34 (NIV2011) Why? Because he understood that for truth to take hold of people at the deepest, life changing level, it would have to take hold of their imaginations. People need not only to think in new ways, they need to feel and to see in new ways.
How do we see God? What do we imagine God is doing in our lives and in our world? What would the world look like if we saw it as God sees it? What would relationships between people look like if we saw each other as God sees us? If God’s dream for the world can take hold of us, what would we do? Where shall we turn that our imaginations may be so inspired?
Well, we should turn to the stories of our faith. By this I mean, of course, the stories of the Bible, but I mean more than that. Stories told by great faith-moved writers; not only people like John Milton and John Bunyan, but more contemporary writers like G. K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Even, and perhaps especially writers who speak with different voices, writers like Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Sayers, Walker Percy , Taylor Caldwell, and Madeleine L’Engle – among many, many others. My point is not to create a reading list – you can create your own – my point is that we need to open ourselves to works of the imagination that speak to our imaginations – that might help to awaken our capacity for being grasped by a vision of God and God’s world – at least our corner of it.