Our view of reality places limits on what we do. We sensibly recall Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Yet, do we always have the wisdom to know the difference? History suggests, not.
Wisdom told us that it was impossible to run a four minute mile. It was unimaginable to everyone. Everyone except Colin Banister that is, who could imagine its possibility, and then went ahead and did it. Of course, once others saw it was possible, the unimaginable became imaginable – to the point that today it almost seems common place. Although I still struggle to imagine that, as my best remains closer to 15 minutes!
In the sixties, segregation and racial discrimination was an excepted fact of life, until Martin Luther King gave people a dream. A dream that helped people imagine a different future, until that imagined future pervaded society and the dream became increasingly a reality, to the point that, today the U.S. has a black president, something that would have been utterly unimaginable only a generation earlier.
Wherever you look, there have been great leaders who have caused us to reimagine things, whether a Winston Churchill or a Steve Jobs. They help us see the world differently, not as it is, but as it could be. They help us imagine victory when we see defeat, success when we see failure, a way forward when we see none.
We need to imagine.
Not long ago I was asked why I write this blog. This is the reason.
The New Testament describes a reality that is not seen today. We have lost something and do not know the way back. I am not even convinced there is a way back, even assuming we should want to take it. The path for us has to be forward. Yet, what do we make of the past we have left behind or the promised reality that we cannot see?
It seems to me that there are two main approaches to this. The first is to say that that was a former time. A time that is not to be repeated and even, when viewed from the sober judgement of today’s reason, may never have been in the first place. Trying to recreate what may never have been, or was a once off, is foolishness.
The second approach is to allow myself to be drawn into a different reality. I may not know how to change my life so that I live in the truth of the Kingdom of God and its limits, rather than those of the world around me. I don’t even know what that looks like. But I can begin to imagine.
So, I am imagining how things were. Recreating a past from different angles to help me see afresh, for I have become too familiar with the old truths and they no longer reach me. Then, I can begin to reimagine those truths for today. The two worlds colliding, and in that collision, to once more make the unimaginable imaginable again.
I cannot imagine myself ever running the four minute mile, but I can imagine the day when my imagination no longer constrains me, but draws me forward into a greater reality. That is my aim. That is why I write these stories. I share them for anyone else that wants to listen.