We leave the imagination stuff to children – imaginary friends and Peter Pan’s epic imaginary food fight come to mind.
Certainly, higher thinkers and wise adults would have moved past imagination to knowledge. This is dangerous.
Maybe our quest for knowledge is a bit misguided. We see it as linear; seeking information and truth must lead to answers.
Instead, maybe faith is about seeking truth through imagination, a process that is not linear and does not lead to black-and-white answers.
Jesus’ ministry and life was one of imaginative thinking. He was criticized and crucified for his reckless abandon and wild ideas of joining the dregs of society to imagine a different way of life.
Redemption, after all, is imagining the broken of the world as whole again, no matter how many fragmented pieces there are.
Imagination is not child’s play, although that is where it begins. Babies dream in the womb. They imagine “something” from the “nothingness” they know.
This sounds like redemption, or creation – something from nothing. Maybe having the faith of a child means having the imagination of one, too.
We are scared of our imaginations because people are flawed. They imagine and daydream of “sinful” things, right?
Yes, of course, but the alternative to imaginative response is static answers. And those can be flawed as well. All answers are not sound, healthy, right or backed by facts.
It seems that we have this imaginative power given to us by the most incomprehensible God, whom our imaginations cannot even contain.
Maybe faith is all about imagining. Maybe Jesus told those stories to awaken our imaginations.
It makes all those details theologians have debated for centuries less important. They distract us from hearing and responding with imaginative thinking.
When we let our “spiritual imagination” run wild with the words and images Jesus’ words conjure up, it is dangerous.
Leaving faith, praxis, hope, love and redemption up to our imaginations is dangerously free.
Our imaginative power is one that is unbridled. It cannot be harnessed, stifled, silenced or taken from us. It can be destructive or redemptive.
Our faith and churches could use a little imagination – stepping out of the rigid brick-and-mortar walls we’ve created not only in our minds, but also in our hearts and under our steeples.
Our faith has turned into one of answers. Our churches have turned into warehouses of religious robots repeating the answers programmed into their spiritual hard drives.
Our Scriptures have turned into a book of rules and facts. Our imaginations have been labeled as secular, sinful and childish – something from our “flesh” instead of our faith.
We need to reclaim this gift that God, the great “imaginator,” gave to us. We need to create and be creative in our thinking and in our redemptive response to the world.
We need to create in our worship – in our songs, prayers, sermons and other spiritual rituals.
We need to imagine new responses to social issues instead of simply overlaying the responses of an ancient society atop today’s.
We need to imagine ways to create peace, solve conflict, respond to crisis, care for our planet, provide healthcare to all. The list could go on, as our imaginative response has no end.
We need to trust that the God who imagined humanity into being, gifted each of us with this same imaginative power to change, reimagine, re-create and redeem the bleak, blank and broken of our world.
Carra Hughes Greer is a bivocational minister, serving as minister to families at Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta and working as a personal trainer. She is a graduate of McAfee School of Theology.
Carra Greer has a Bachelors in Justice Studies and Master of Divinity. She is a bivocational minister in Atlanta, a mother of four, an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, and a True Crime junkie.