She could not be more wrong.
In the past several years, Christians have grown unjustifiably hesitant to engage in the arts, fearing that magic, fantasy, poetry, drama, tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale are all dangerous and worldly. We are certainly people of the Book, but we have somehow dismissed any calling to be people of books. Voracious reading, robust psalm singing, creative artistry, and a passionate activation of the imagination have become things of the past, relegated either to our secular foes or to our “unenlightened” Christian ancestors. Saints before us bore a bright flame of culture, artistry, and story, and we seem to have negligently dropped it to the ground. We run our children through the mechanized conveyor belt of government schools, pouring the cement muck of mere facts into their hungry brains, and we have the gall to call it education. As C.S. Lewis explained, “We are far too easily pleased,” dulling our minds and our spirits with simple amusement, petty repetitions, and glaring screens when infinite joy is offered us.
This joy, however, is not merely a luxury to be enjoyed once we have passed into eternity. God has called us to be in the world now, actively building His kingdom on earth, preparing the banqueting table for the great marriage feast to come. Yet, we all find ourselves each morning caught in the confused and chaotic world of Babel, dreams of Eden still whirling about in our desperate minds. We long for the redemption of all sadnesses, our resurrected bodies, our perfect and beautiful homecoming. We were made for Eden, and we are restless until it is returned to us in Christ.
In order to yearn for the restoration of Eden and the great awakening of this sleeping world, we must imagine. We must set the eyes of our mind and the affections of our heart on a reality that has not yet been fully realized. As Paul instructs, we must “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” However, we cannot simply imagine any sort of future; we must know the storyGod is telling. We must acquaint ourselves with the structure, plot, and conflict of His grand narrative. Death and resurrection, exile and return, these are God’s plot points, and we see them over and over again in the Bible.
In Ephesians, Paul tells us to “be imitators of God as dearly loved children.” Given this command, the most helpful way to begin such an imitation is to ask: “Well, what is God like?” To answer this, we turn to the first sentence of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created.” Here is our first characteristic to imitate. God creates. He is creative, but not in any old sort of way. God creates within a narrative. God is The Storyteller, and we are called to imitate Him in this storytelling.
Further, this Storyteller-God became flesh and dwelt among us. And Jesus was no fact machine. He did not pass out doctrine tests to His disciples; Jesus told stories. Jesus told many stories, and He was a great storyteller. Children crowded around to hear them. His disciples listened intently to them. Yet, somehow we forget that the stories He told were imaginary; they were fictional stories that delivered eternal truth. Jesus was a craftsman, a carpenter by trade and an artistic wordsmith in His ministry.
God is certainly telling a masterful story, one with many twists and turns, and we are all His characters. His story tells the truth, and we must learn to taste and see that truth correctly. Only in this way can we imagine and lean into the promise of Eden restored, the great climax and resolution of God’s narrative. In His story, everything sad is coming untrue. Learn the story, see His patterns and rhythms, be the character you have been called to be in the greatest story ever told.
It is everything we could ever imagine and truer than we can possibly know.
Matthew Huff is a poet, writer and teacher in Atlanta, GA. He received his B.A. in English from North Greenville University and an M.A. in English/Literature from Belmont University. For the past five years, he has taught British Literature, AP Literature, and Creative Writing at Landmark Christian School in Fairburn, GA. His first book of poetry The Cardinal Turns the Corner was released earlier this year and is available now on Amazon. When he is not three cups deep in a pot of coffee, he can be found hosting tea parties with his wife and three daughters and blogging at edenbabel.com.
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