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Dr. Mittag-Leffler: “Mr. Crick, you have a voice speaking to you?”

Harold Crick: “No, not to me. ABOUT me. I’m somehow involved in some sort of story. Like I’m a character in my own life. But the problem is that the voice comes and goes…”

The film Stranger Than Fiction has captured my imagination of late, not because of its creative take on the stories our lives actually are, but because it has gotten me to thinking more about imagination and its importance, particularly for living as a Christian in a broken world. After all, you can’t write, tell, or read a story (even live a story for that matter) without your imagination. Imagination to story is like oxygen to brain function. You can’t have brain function without oxygen, can you?

Once Harold Crick comes to the realization that he’s a character in a story and the story is his life…and the story’s ending is his tragic death, Harold’s imagination is awakened like a sleeping giant. He madly begins to imagine living a story that is radically different from the one he had always been living as a by-the-book, by-the-clock IRS agent. (That’s all I’m going to say about the movie’s plot just in case you haven’t seen it. I can be thoughtful like that sometimes. So if you haven’t watched Stranger Than Fiction, you may want to add it to your Netflix queue before Part 4 in this series, which I may or may not write…)

In his book Imagining the Kingdom, James Smith writes:

“Action and creative cultural labor are generated more by visions than maxims, more by telos than a rule. This intuition is captured in a saying attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince: ‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.’”

The inseparable connection between imagination and story resonates deeply with me (because I believe it’s the doggone truth! By the way, where did the word “doggone” come from any way? Hmmm…).

James Smith’s take on the importance of imagination in cultural accomplishment illustrates what the Apostle Paul is doing with the word adoption in Scripture. If we want the children of God to live as children of God in this broken world, our primary approach should not be to tell them what to do or not do, but rather to teach them to long for the eternal beauty and delight of a new heaven and a new earth in which the love of the Triune God is as tangible to us as a cool breeze on a warm day (Revelation 21:1-6).

Imagine the intense effort the shipbuilders would put forth to build seaworthy ships if their imaginations where captured by longing for the endless immensity of the sea. My guess is that it would be awe-inspiring.

Likewise, imagine the commitment, effort, and creative strategies to visiting orphans and widows in affliction (James 1:27) if our imaginations were captured by the longing for a new heaven and new earth in which there were no more orphaned and vulnerable children and in which the love of the Triune God is the main attraction?

The stories we live and the social justice we pursue might look much different than they currently look, and much better.

This Story Begins and Ends in Joy - Facebook Cover

Again, unlike Harold Crick, every single moment we have words spoken over us and about us that make new realities for us. We discover that “We’re being followed by the voice of our Father: ‘You are my cherished child, with you I am well pleased.’”  And those Words are guiding/leading us (however you wish to put it) to that whole new world of a new heaven and a new earth that is yet hidden from our sight (one day to be revealed to the children of God).

So, for the sake of your life, the life of the people around you, the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children, start reading and living a story that fully engages your Christian imagination. Imagine the wonderful adventure your life could become.

Story is the stuff of life. And imagination is the stuff of story.

Will you join us October 4-5 at Southern Seminary in Louisville as we journey into this Story of all stories, into the Story that changes everything for us and the fatherless? You’ll leave deeply encouraged, refreshed, and empowered.

Early-Bird Deadline 2013


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