“It was all started by a mouse,” Walt Disney said, reminding people of the power of imagination. For decades, big voices of Christian faith have emphasized information without much attention to imagination. Faith brings life and bears fruit through stronger and better desires, not just better ideas. How does imagination affect desire?
By analogy, picture a marriage you admire. What guided the couple’s will to make the original lifetime commitment? Imagination. There are no guarantees. Marriage vows are not a promise always to feel a certain way. Instead, when a couple stands up to make their pledge, they are casting a vision to guide them no matter how they feel, moment to moment. They imagine a preferred future together. It’s a common dream they share and it results in one weighty pronouncement: “Until death do we part.”
Next, picture the fruit of a healthy marriage. It’s all a result of keeping vision alive. Stories develop, histories build, children appear, neighborhoods grow–we could go on, endlessly. What emerges is more than you might foresee and more than you can measure. Imagination as square-one is most appropriate.
Imagination is the organ which helps us digest reality. J.S. Bach commented he did not so much compose music as he did discover it. We all have reacted after seeing some simple innovation and said, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Once it’s invented, it’s obvious. Even the lovable cynic Mark Twain remarked, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
As with Mickey Mouse, marriage, and music, so too with belief. Imagination is required. I often wonder how so many people with so much good information can be so unaffected by it? Just having the right data isn’t the thing. In his book, Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith asks, “What if education, including higher education, is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information but about the formation of hearts and desires?
“He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of seeds…yet when it grows it becomes the largest…'” (Matt. 13:31). It was all started by a mouse.
What’s sparked your imagination lately? How is it shaping your desires?