As a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the imagination. As a writer who likes to tackle spiritual things, that takes a different twist. After all, what is prayer if it’s not imagination turned outward, a vision of possibility that we’re looking to align with the universe?
For the sake of argument, imagine God cares more about my experience as a being—the joys, the sorrows, the unique and wild ride that we each take while learning to be human beings—than God cares about me getting it “right”. I mean, if you’d made a bunch of human beings, wouldn’t watching them explore the possibilities of existence be a lot more interesting and rewarding than constantly monitoring them like some kind of Cosmic Nanny? Even if smiting is our thing, that sounds kind of exhausting. Boring. If I were in God’s shoes, I’d definitely be more interested in people figuring out what COULD be than what SHOULD be. After all, why put billions of unique people on earth if you wanted them to all conform to a specific and narrow way of doing things? You might even find a way to efface the consequences of mistakes so that people can keep learning and living…
I’ve had quite a few moments over the last few years when my imagination and the world around me intersected in surprising ways. There are, of course, the boots that turned red when I prayed for them.
Another time, I sat down to write for the first time in years. I wrote about humpback whales in the inlet near my house. It’s a rare occurrence, but when I went for a hike later that day, there were humpback whales in the inlet. It was unusual enough that there were news crews filming them and gawkers lining the coast trying to catch a glimpse.
I’ve had a recurring dream about a house that turned out to be an actual house in my town. It even had a swimming pool in the basement. (Note: There are almost no pools in Anchorage, let alone basement pools.) For me, the dream represented unused gifts in my life, and seeing it in reality encouraged me to pursue them.
I’ll probably spend a lifetime unpacking what those moments might mean, but I know this: They have called me to a greatness of imagination that I hadn’t aspired to before—the greatness of Could over the greatness of Should. They are glimpses of a universe where my desires matter, where speaking and writing can work magic, where the greatness of being carries infinitely more possibilities than the greatness of suppression and containment.
None of these moments represented big aspirations for me—I wanted some fun boots, I wanted to be a writer, I wanted joy in my own gifts. But after years of fitting into a box where desires didn’t matter, those desires felt… unseemingly selfish. How often do we dismiss our greatest imaginings as simple and childish? We think, wistfully, “Yeah, that would be great…” and go back to pursuing the things we’re supposed to—safety, authority, wealth, affirmation.
Some people like to say God exists because we can imagine God— as beings in a universe, our imagination can’t stretch beyond the bounds of the that universe, so if we can imagine God, God exists. By that token, what do you do with that we imagine for ourselves? When we’ve worn out the things we’re bound to,the things that spring up in the soil of pain and dry up quickly. What then? What does your heart long for? Do you even know? Imagine… it might be something great.
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