Jack King, my friend and dentist (and no, that is not an oxymoron), recently put me onto a book by James Hollis entitled What Matters Most. I have read the preface and the first chapter and it is one of those books that grabs me from the very first page. On that page, Hollis concludes, with William Blake, that our highest faculty is not reason, useful and necessary as that is, but the imagination.
Perhaps a question for some of us today is how intimate are we with our imagination? Do we frequently know the interruption of being pricked with an idea, letting it perk for a little while, then begin to enlarge our dreams around that "new baby" and imagine it into reality. Ah, there may not be a rush quite like it. And if you say that you know nothing of any such rush, I can only be sad for your momentary loss of imaginative skill. I know it's there somewhere; perhaps it is just not being exercised.
And are we so derailed as to believe that imagination is only the playground of the child? To be sure, a child can get lost in her own little world, relate to imaginary friends, and create a scenario that defies anything Hollywood can produce. But adults can journey in that land also and it must not be seen as a waste of time, else how could we have entrepreneurship, invention, technical advancement or any kind of progress.
I sat on the side porch of an old farmhouse in Yancey County in the summer of 1982 and began to dream about a direct service effort that could provide food, clothing, and other essentials for the impoverished. I knew nothing about developing a non-profit program, but I knew how to ask questions, and soon the dots began to connect and the porch-side dream became "Reconciliation House," a local crisis center. Then in 1988, Patti and I began ping-ponging questions and statements off of each other and another dream was birthed. The result of even more dot-connecting was "Diakonos," the organization that eventually became the parent to what is now Fifth Street Ministries. Those two efforts, that were pivotal, solidified for me the value, even the necessity, of letting our imaginations run wild. I learned to say with John Lennon that I am a "...dreamer, but I am not the only one."
Probably the most noted Christian scholar of the Hebrew Bible today is Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann is a prolific author who has written, among other works, The Prophetic Imagination. He traces the notion from Moses through Isaiah and other prophets on up to Jesus that those who respond to the call of God must understand themselves as being in a counter-cultural relationship with the world. Truly, "This world is not our home, we're just a-passin' through." Those today who stand with Brueggemann say forcefully that our final allegiance is not to any Pharaoh or Caesar or any other organized, power-driven, self-enhanced entity. The operative word in all of this is "transformative." We are to become more and other than we are at any given moment. And that will take a large dose of imagination.
Look at what the contemporary church is, bless its gifts (which are many), forgive its idolatries (which are probably more) and then imagine what could be. I'm not so sure but that, on some days at least, imagination is synonymous with what we know as Holy Spirit.