I’d usually rather spend my money on books than on DVD sets. One of these days, though, I am going to get around to purchasing The Star Wars trilogy, made up of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. I’m not one of those true fans who can tell you every detail of every film but I am one of those who really enjoys them.
Debra and I saw the first film when we were dating and the next two while I was in seminary in Louisville. We were living in Nashville when we took Joshua and Sara to see them when they were re-released to theatres in 1997.
I remember watching Star Wars and being absolutely amazed. Somehow I knew, even as the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” were scrolling up the screen, that something special was about to happen.
To me, it was like watching a western that had been set in outer space. There were good guys and bad guys (wearing white and black helmets, no less), a damsel in distress (although this one provided a lot of her own help in getting out of distress), two heroes in friendly conflict over the girl (it took all three movies to work that one out), and an eccentric cast of supporting characters (only these were creatures with names like Chewbacca and androids with names like R2-D2).
Debra and I saw Star Wars in Griffin, Georgia on a Saturday night. On Sunday morning we attended my home church. I was singing the praises of the movie to some friends when one of them said, “I thought it was dumb.” I was appalled at her lack of imagination.
Imagination is necessary to a life of faith. My trusty Webster’s dictionary defines imagination this way: “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”
When we say that the Old Testament prophets were inspired, one of the things we are saying is that God moved in their lives in such a way that they were able to imagine the way things really were or really were going to be, even if all appearances were to the contrary. When the biblical writers say, “I saw,” they are saying that with the help of God’s Spirit they were able to imagine the reality that God needed his people to hear about.
Hebrews 11 offers what is often called “the roll call of faith.” Listen to the translation of Hebrews 11:13-16 in The Message:
Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.
Or, as a popular song of a few years ago put it, “You’re packing your suitcase for a place none of us has been; a place that has to be believed to be seen.” Or as yet another popular song said, “I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by your side.”
We can only imagine. But if we can imagine, we can believe. And if we can't imagine....