MORE THOUGHTS 12
How good is your imagination? Children have a great capacity to create imaginary worlds, to get caught up in fantasies and fears that heighten senses and make all kinds of things seem possible. Maybe such imaginings are about monsters hiding under the bed. Maybe they center around creating little worlds out in the back yard where tea parties and meals can be held, using leaves, flowers, sticks and stones and whatever comes to hand, where invitations are given to join in the banquet. This is the stage of life where stars are pin pricks in the velvet curtain of the night sky and where some loved one who has died has their own little light shining down. Our imaginations become restricted as we grow up. Indeed, we may be labelled as fanciful, worse, if we can still, at times get caught up in that particularly creative place in our heads. It can appear dangerous to allow this sort of thing in. Why is that?
The life of faith calls for every part of ourselves to be engaged. If we think faith is something we can work out in our heads and get it to make sense, we end up creating very strong walls around ourselves that only allow in the things that bolster our security. That is hard work and can restrict the flourishing of lives in a world that is always questioning our beliefs. Jesus didn’t go in for this approach. He engaged people’s imagination all the time. In the lectionary reading from Mark’s gospel this week, we hear that Jesus only taught people in parables. There is something very important about this. Quite a long time ago, theologian James Whitehead wrote, “Faith is the enduring ability to imagine life in a certain way.” That “certain way” is what we find when we focus on who Jesus was and how he lived among people, how he led them on into ways of understanding what God might be about. His parables were not giving definitive answers to the questions that were hovering around in people’s minds as they followed him, listened to him, saw what he was doing. As Mark tells it, in Chapter 4, Jesus gives them the image of a person scattering seed on the ground. The seed then lies in the dark soil then grows, by itself, until it sprouts and produces grain to be harvested by the person who has been waiting for this time. The crowd around Jesus no doubt sat there, imagining the seeds that could not be seen, aware of the waiting and of how little they could do in this process. They could visualize a mustard seed and how it grew. They knew about smallness and vulnerability. Today, we might think about how we can go to the shop and buy fertilizer and add the right kind of nutrients to help us get the best possible result. Our thinking can co-opt the point of the story. If we allow our imagination in, we can feel that our hearts and minds, our emotions and our spirits become engaged with the much bigger picture which is pointing us towards the nature of God. Then we may imagine a way forwards.
Our imaginations are powerful. They can lead us astray if we are not looking towards God. But they can also grasp us and show us new possibilities. After all, our imaginations also belong to God, and, in God, bear fruit. If we can ease our hold on the rational, we discover things that touch us and offer creative life, even in dark times.
You shall go out with joy
And be led forth with peace
The mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There'll be shouts of joy
And all the trees of the field
Will clap, will clap their hands.