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Renewed Imagination

What do we mean when we talk about the "imagination?"

The imagination is the lens through which we encounter the world. This lens is shaped by our culture, experiences, and the stories we tell about ourselves and the world. We use our eyes and other senses to navigate the material world; but we use our imaginations to tell the story of what this world means to us, of how we fit within it, and who we are. It is our deepest place of perception, response, and meaning.

The imagination can be shaped by glory through beautiful, meaningful, and healthy connections within the world the Creator made. But for anyone alive, it is also shaped by the loss of glory and the corrupt systems of humans with injustice, oppression, brokenness, rejection, fear, abuse, etc.

In the Hebrew scriptures, the imagination is often referred to as the lev or "heart." In English and in many other modern languages, we understand the heart to be the seat of the emotionsthe place of love and sadness, hatred and enjoyment. But, we don't always have the full sense of the imaginationemotional, but also moral, ethical, psychological, cultural, and deeply spiritual.

Genesis 6:5-6 says that "Yahweh saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every purpose of the thoughts of their imagination was only evil continuously." Here we see that Genesis refers not to humanity as individuals, but as a whole, functioning with one, collective imagination. Together, humankind got worse and worse over the years as they colluded with hostile spiritual forces and built empires. And this had an effect on the imagination of the Creator for his creation too. "And Yahweh regretted that he had made humankind in the earth, and he was pained to his imagination." He had seen his creation and said that it was good just a few chapters earlier. But now, his imagination for the creation is grieved or wounded. Now, he sees the world with regret because of the multiplication of violence. Verse 8 then says "but Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh," although the earth was filled with violence and "ruined in God's sight" (v. 11).

The imagination gets broken and bent by the losses of glory around us, and in us. When people are caught in cycles of violence, their imagination is wounded, constrained, and hardened (Ex. 7:13). It becomes "unfeeling" (Ps. 119:70) and loses touch with the reality of human suffering and shame.

Our imagination has to be healed in order to see the glory of the world and in our own lives.

But here's the thing: we can't heal our imaginations on our own. We don't wound them by ourselves, and we can't heal them without others either. This is also corroborated in the findings of social science. A renewed imagination comes about with re-kin-ciled connections. And those connection renew the imagination in a cyclical manner.

So how do we break out of the cycle of violence, and enter this cycle of glory and renewed imagination?

In one way, it has to be like getting rescued by a stranger. The currents of shame and violence in the world are so strong that we cannot escape without help from outside of the cycle, without someone stronger than us intervening.

But in another way, it looks like simply letting the tide take you. The currents of shame and violence are nothing compared to the tidal force of Glory and Peace that lies at the core of existence, holding all things together and moving everything back to perfect harmony.

It's like a rescue because we are so oppressed and shaped by the corrupt systems we live inside of. But, when we finally receive the help on offer, and consent to be rescued, we find a tide that carries us in the way of freedom and rest, because we find what we are really made for. We find the way things really are, which disrupts the status quo of the powerful. We find the tidal force which will carry us to Peace: not always on easy paths, and not without sacrifice, but with much greater strength.

When our imagination is renewed (Ps. 51:10) and broadened (Ps. 119:32), it changes everything. Now we can see hope where we saw despair. Now, we can see reasons for gratitude where we saw only reasons for shame. Now, we have a new capacity to love where we could only move in fear.

Just like the cycle of violence, the cycle of glory spirals out to bring others into its orbit. The Creator remains committed to his creation in spite of its cycles of violence, and intervenes to create a new cycle. We can recognize the glory of the Creator at work wherever we see this rescue and renewal taking place in individuals and communities. Every time we make ourselves available to his glory and intervene in someone else's cycle of shame and violence, we become part of this work to renew the world.

Individualism & Collectivism

All cultures could be placed on a spectrum from individualistic to collectivistic. In order to help us more clearly see what this means, we will make some generalizations about the extreme ends of the


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