It’s become a tired punchline that parents are weary of being asked “Why?” a thousand times a day. I get that. We are as tired as the joke is. In frustration, we may say, ‘Because I said so!” That is probably best classified as what scientist call a “crummy” response. But it does hint at a larger reality.
The answer to the big Why is because God said so –more– is saying so.
N.D. Wilson’s magnificent Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl includes his poetic celebration of the fact that God spoke, and is speaking, the world. We are his ongoing art. If he were to stop speaking, we would cease.
“Imagine a poem written with such enormous three-dimensional words that we had to invent a smaller word to reference each of the big ones; that we had to rewrite the whole thing in shorthand, smashing it into two dimensions, just to talk about it. Or don’t imagine it. Look outside. Human language is our attempt at navigating God’s language; it is us running between the lines of His epic, climbing on the vowels and building houses out of the consonants.”
N.D. Wilson, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl
We live in a story, a story with an Author. The Author.
The question Why is one we’re born asking and it’s a little dangerous to try to silence it in our children. Direct it, sure. Help the asking of it fit into order and obedience, yes. But don’t dare snuff it out.
Every why is finally answered in God. Even the hard ones. But that doesn’t mean they are easy, or even possible, for us to answer. There’s so much beyond our immediate apprehension.
“Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
I have read Ecclesiastes more times than I can count and I still don’t know exactly what that means. I suppose that’s part of the point. Ecclesiastes reveals a world irreducible to simple formula for understanding. As much as our Rationalist/Modernist leaders have tried to lay out the scheme in a logical outline (usually excluding the super-natural –and God– altogether), we have mainly witnessed this as a promise unkept.
Life is a poetic puzzle. We long for meaning, for answers to all riddles. But riddles persist, even after receiving the revelation of God’s Word. This revelation actually has the effect of both increasing knowledge and deepening mystery. Troubling as this may be, it is less troubling than a universe easily sorted out and understood by us. That would be like reducing the athletic marvel of the Olympics to a roomful of infants trying to walk. There is more than we see, or imagine. But imagination is a road to seeing.
C.S. Lewis said that reason is the natural organ of truth. We can find truth on the other side of reason’s road. This gives us some answers to the What questions we have. But this does not often answer the Why. Imagination, he said, is the organ of meaning.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein
Increase knowledge, yes. Study God’s special revelation (the Bible) with energy and vigor. And do cultivate reason in an age that is losing touch with its importance. But don’t neglect Imagination.
The kingdom is coming. Looking ahead to that kingdom is an imaginative adventure. We are called to seek first the kingdom of God. Living with this anticipation is a posture of hopeful faith.
When we look for the kingdom, our natural eyes see a world bent and broken by sin, rebellion. We blink, but it doesn’t go away. What must we do? The eyes of faith see more.
By imagination, we can see through nations in rebellion, openly celebrating banality and death, to a world of righteousness and virtue, nobility and truth. By holy imagination we can see through a world of war to one where weapons are repurposed for the flourishing of the land and the people who live in peace upon it. By holy imagination, we can see through corrupt and feckless leaders to a king of perfect beauty and justice, strong and glad, the hope of mankind.
Oh come, oh come, Immanuel,
God with us again.
Oh kingdom come, Immanuel,
God with us, world without end.
We are called to live with the power of that future now, in the “already/not yet” we experience every day.
Orienting our lives around anticipating the Kingdom of God is a work of profound faith. I believe that fostering holy imagination is a crucial part of that. Let’s point our focus to the world before us, but through it as well, to the surely coming kingdom of God. Our homes can be outposts of a certain future of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Places where Christ is King. Your family is the most potent art you’ll ever be a part of creating.
God bless you as you seek that kingdom’s light, even through what seems an impenetrable darkness.