Holy Imagination: The Lord is Near
When I was a new Christian, I used to clear off the passenger seat of my car and imagine Jesus was riding next to me. Sometimes I’d even reach out my right hand and imagine that He was there holding it in His.
Holy Imagination. I’m not using the word “imagination” in the make-believe sense. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says the Lord is preparing for us “an eternal weight of glory as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.” Our use of holy imagination doesn’t make things up but looks for ways to bring spiritual realities into view; it looks for the symbols of this world that the Word spoke into being to remind us of what truly is.
I love birds. And living here in the Tidewater area of Virginia provides ample opportunities to see them in all their variety and majesty. Thinking about the Lord’s delight in creating everything from the hummingbird to the bald eagle, from the common duck to the great blue heron amazes me to think of the endlessness of His creativity in just one kind of animal type. (I happen to know a biology professor who finds himself constantly awestruck about the variety of bugs crawling around on this earth. I don’t really understand his fascination, but I do appreciate it!)
My morning walk takes me down near a dammed-off area of the James River. It’s a haven for all kinds of birds. My favorite, though, is the great blue heron. Years ago, as I watched them glide across the water, or swoop low overhead on their way into a landing, I started associating these beautiful birds with a reminder that the Lord is near. After all, I’m slow to remember and quick to forget that He promises to “never leave us nor forsake us” and making this mental association reminds me not only to praise Him for the beauty of His creation, but also to talk with him about the day ahead, the concerns of my heart and pray for those who are in need.
There are other ways that holy imagination points me to Truth. In the spring as the trees start to bloom, I’m reminded of rebirth. In the summers, when it’s 100 degrees, the crepe myrtles in their array of colors remind me that even in the scorching heat of trial, there is beauty. In the fall, as the trees turn glorious shades of gold and red, the Lord reminds me that though this life comes to an end, there’s still joy to be had. Finally even in winter, as the bare trees stretch their arms up toward the heavens, I can almost hear them groaning in eager longing to be set free from their bondage to corruption. (Romans 8:19-22), encouraging me to look forward to That Day as well.
Scripture uses metaphor – word pictures – in many ways: lions, harvesting, roiling waters and rocky soil to name but a few. The same Word who breathed all Scripture, also spoke all things into existence. May we – may I – not miss the pointers to Himself that He’s put in front of us.
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