JOAN. I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.
ROBERT. They come from your imagination.
JOAN. Of Course. That is how the messages of God come to us.
George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this blog, it’s that I have a few topics I keep returning to, themes that just won’t leave me alone. One is, apparently, humor; the other, imagination.
I encountered the above quote from Shaw’s 1923 play in a book I read for my thesis, about women in ministry. I don’t remember how the quote was applied, but it struck me and I made a note and copied it down.
You see, for a long time I was pretty sure God wasn’t sending me a whole lot of messages. And when I thought something might be a message, I talked myself out of it—don’t be silly, Alissa; you’re making stuff up; it’s all in your imagination.
A couple of years ago, as I was beginning to face a large and life-changing question. I really felt that God was calling me to something, but I couldn’t be sure. What if I had made everything up, constructed a message in my mind? What if it was all just my imagination?
I was troubled. This thought weighed heavily on me.
But, ever so gradually, I started to wonder: was there something so wrong with my imagination? What had happened to make me lose all trust in this part of myself? God spoke through dreams and visions all the time in the Bible, what was stopping God from speaking through the creative and imaginative part of me?
I like this part of myself. I’m a writer, a crafter, a creator, an imaginer—so why was I blocking these aspects of my self from the serious, important places? I think perhaps my strong, intellectual side took over, called for empirical evidence, for proof. Who doesn’t know this feeling, the longing for some proof? And here is faith.
In my last post, I mentioned a group where we spoke about how we know the resurrected Christ. Another statement I made in that group is that for me, speaking of Jesus’ resurrection can be difficult because it means putting something with infinite meaning into finite language. I know Christ’s resurrection most easily in poetry, in story, in song, in art—in those creative venues I would excise from my hoity-toity über-intellectual epistemology.
Enough of that.
Saving faith for me has meant re-welcoming my imagination, integrating my creative and intellectual sides. There is a place for provable knowledge, yes. There is also a place for paradox and poetry and, well, imagination. So I imagine a word from God. Yes, that is how the messages of God come to us.
How do the messages of God come to you? How do you use your imagination, your creativity? Do you trust your imagination?