“For I have commanded ravens to feed you there ...” (I Kings 17:4)
A family is traveling and the mother is reading a book to the entire family. The family is so engrossed in the story that the father drives past the motel at which they had reservations. And it is not discovered until 26 miles later — when the chapter is finished. Can you imagine that?
A town has a one-room school house for what we would call middle school and high school. One teacher. No library. And the most incredible announcement is made: A bookmobile is coming to the school. A child is wide-eyed with excitement. I can check out a book? Can you imagine that?
There is something exciting hearing people speak of how a world was opened up to them with a book. Perhaps even a single book. For some people, that book is the Bible.
I recently had the opportunity to hear people share how they came to have their imagination stirred. For them, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were the books.
Generally, it strikes me that we in the South tend to employ the word “imagination” with a negative connotation. For example: A person lost a daughter. Someone says, “I could not begin to imagine …” A certain young man has set his sights on a girl who comes from a family of society. People speculate on a possible outcome: “That’s hard to imagine.” An event occurs in one’s life. Did they see it coming? “Not in my wildest imagination.”
Scripture is full of stories to excite the imagination. These are verbal stories — told around the campfire. “God sent the birds to feed him, in the desert ... bread, in the middle of nowhere, brought by ravens.” Later, these stories were written. Later still, they were painted.
A story is told about the power of God in a time of desperation. A holy man asks a single mother to feed him. She says she has enough meal and oil to make one last hushpuppy to split with her child. He presses her and offers a promise — feed me first and it well be well with you and your son. (Typical evangelist, right?)
She finds it difficult to imagine that what he says can be true. She measures by hand and intuitively knows there isn’t enough meal for all three of them. She shifts the meal to the other hand. “What is there to lose? I could die of starvation tomorrow or in three days.” She decides to imagine. Or practice radical hospitality. Or both.
You may know the story. The holy man’s words were true. Each day there was enough oil and meal — without fail. Can you imagine that?
Later, the son is ill. Indeed she believes that he is dead. She lets the holy man have it. “Is this what I receive in return?” He, however, imagines an alternative outcome. He believes he can bring the son’s life back. A child can imagine such a story and such a possibility; a cynical adult cannot. Yet, in I Kings 17:22, God listens to Elijah’s plea and the son comes back to life! Who could have imagined?
Parents are concerned about young people who spend too much time on social media and online gaming. A parent’s concern is nothing new.
A mother wrote C.S. Lewis and was concerned that her son, Laurence, would not stop reading “Chronicles of Narnia” and that he loved Aslan more than he loved Jesus Christ.
Lewis wrote to the boy. Lewis encouraged the lad to not worry and to keep stretching, and enjoying, his imagination. “God knows all about the way a little boy’s imagination works. (He made it, after all.)”
It is my joy to write these words to you and encourage you to have a vivid imagination — to see ravens bringing you what you need. It is my hope that somehow you can close your eyes and imagine a time when a story excited you. Recall a time when you couldn’t wait to hear how the chapter ended; how you dreamed of being able to read for yourself; to check out a book; or hear someone tell you, again, a favorite story about Kubiejack.
May God bless — and stir — your imagination today and in the days to come.
Jarred Hammet is the pastor of Macon’s Northminster Presbyterian Church.