Our imaginations have been shackled. As though a warrant were served during a routine traffic stop, our ability to envision a road ahead of us that differs in any significant way from the road behind us has been removed from its place behind the wheel. It now sits in the back of a police cruiser, on the way to a holding facility where it is left to ponder what may become of it. Our imaginations once ran wild, throwing caution to the wind. Now they wither and worry in captivity.
Do you remember it?
Do you remember what your imagination was capable of when it was youthful and vigorous? You used to be a cop before it was your turn to be the robber. You’ve wielded swords forged in space and made of lasers. Your imagination made no room for injustice. Fairness was intrinsic to your very being when your imagination was allowed to drive freely.
Things have been different since they locked it up. We are slower to name injustice. We consume our daily dose of the status quo as though it were prescribed. What might we do if our imaginations were free again? What might bailing our imaginations out of captivity require of us?
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It does not take much to rob us of hope. Opening our eyes is often enough to do the job. Where survival is not certain, hope is a luxury. Time is an interesting concept. We know that we have a finite amount of it, yet we can never tell how much of it we have left. There are never any time deposits made in our accounts. Only withdrawals taken. When we crunch the numbers, hope feels like an exercise in folly.
But what of eternity? What if we were able to bequeath time to those who came after us? How might we govern ourselves if our beneficiaries could inherit the time we so valued? What if hope is an investment in the future? I suppose that would require an imagination.
How can a man be reborn when he is old?
Nicodemus asks a fine question of the itinerate Rabbi from Nazareth. It is difficult to overcome the things we know. Some of us have travelled so far with our imaginations under arrest that newness sounds heretical. There remains, however, the possibility of realities outside of that which we have come to understand and accept. Perhaps tomorrow needn’t look like today.
Your imagination is not dead. It has just been caged. I believe there exists an Almighty God, trying to rouse us from a slumber. Wake up!, says the Ancient of Days. We’ve got to free your old friend! It is not too late to get that old thing back. In fact, we must rescue our imaginations if there is any hope for the future. The future belongs to those who will fight for it. I do not mean to suggest that we fight against others for the right to dominate the future. I am not in the business of recruiting for a culture war. No, beloved—this is not a matter of winning a battle for the direction of the future. We must unite to contend for the very existence of a future. Some might say that the future is always approaching and never approached. But I believe that we can summon the future. When we’ve had our fill of today, we can decide to partner with The Almighty in shaping and stewarding a new creation. That decision is called hope, and it demands that we redeem our imagination from its captors.
You may be looking for the parties guilty for illegally detaining your imagination. You will not find them, for theirs is a faceless operation. It is none other than the stewards of today that seek to fetter your imagination. They recognized the power of your imagination before you did. You know better now. You know what your imagination is capable of. And now you can decide. You can choose hope. And your decision might summon the future.
If there is a tomorrow that looks any different from today, we will only get there when we decide to turn the page on the calendar of eternity. This is not an easy decision to make. We’ve found familiarity in today’s page. The future is blank, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves if it does not serve us well. Still, our imaginations call out to us, beckoning us towards an opening that leads to an unfamiliar place. We surge towards our captive friend, ready to break down the gates. We arrive at the bars which separate us from our imagination, only to discover that we are the ones who have been captured. Our old friend has been trying to free us this entire time. Today is the cage. Tomorrow is freedom. Your imagination has waited patiently, eager to deliver you into the future. Your rebirth awaits your decision. The future is waiting on your hope. Together, you can turn the page.
I have been trying to find a way to make this story accessible to 2023 people of faith. This is the best exegesis of Nicodemus—imaginative, rich—I’ve ever read. With gratitude, I will be citing you Sunday morning. Thank you for helping us understand how important it is to reclaim our imaginations and what it means to be ‘born again’ in this day and age.
"Some of us have travelled so far with our imaginations under arrest that newness sounds heretical"
I'm going to sit with this thought for awhile. Thank you.