Sunday, September 5, 2010

Failure of Imagination

My son, this morning, protested getting ready for church (as he often does). He finally burst out, "I hate church! I don't want to go!" After running several responses quickly through my head, I settled on, "I'm sorry to hear that. But why do you think we go to church? Who wants us to be there?"

Grudgingly, he muttered, "Heavenly Father" (which is what we've told him in the past). Trying to be encouraging, I said, "That's right. Heavenly Father wants us to go to church."

To which my son (he's four) responded, "But he's not even there! He doesn't even live here."

For a child who's generally so imaginative, I had a hard time getting him to understand how an omniscient God can still be aware of what we do, even if he's not physically present.

And I realized, too, that I'm also guilty of imaginative failures when it comes to spiritual things. For one thing, I've been thinking lately of the concept of Heaven--not the misty place in the sky where we all rest on clouds and play harps (I certainly hope Heaven isn't really like that!), but a place where we interact with others we love in ways that are similar to the social circles we enjoy here. But I find myself drawing a blank when I try to think of how arts (particularly literary arts) translate into that sphere. I certainly believe we will take the best of us with us--that includes our artistic gifts--but what would a novel, or a poem, or a play look like without the central conflicts and tensions that define life in an imperfect world? At the same time, it seems fundamentally contradictory to suppose that anything in heaven could be *less* than something here. I can only suppose that my imagination isn't up to the task.

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