The Cathedral of St. Philip - Atlanta, GA

Dusting Off Our Imagination

An article from the Cathedral Times
by Canon Lauren Holder


While visiting my family in Virginia last summer, I remember watching my then-3-year-old nephew swinging at the park, pretending to be a dinosaur in a spaceship. I was struck by his ability to enter into imaginative worlds. My nephew is exactly one year older than my son, so it was a preview of what was to come.

Fast forward to this summer, and indeed our day-to-day world is constantly shaped by the vibrant imagination of our own 3-year-old. Sometimes he imagines things we recognize—he drapes a ribbon over his shoulders, calls it a stole, and “goes to work” singing “Alleluia, Alleluia, seek ye first the God of the king...” (close enough), or puts on one of his dad’s event badges and races around the “track” in our living room. Other times he imagines things that are completely foreign to us, making up languages that his little sister pretends to understand. I watch him enter into imaginary worlds with his friends at school or with perfect strangers at the park, all of them able to pick up the threads of one another’s inner creativity with such ease and delight.

Of course there is a dark side to imagination too. Every night before bed, I have to tell all the bears and monsters to get out of my son’s room, and then sweep them out with a broom for good measure. For some reason, bears are both the most fun animal to imitate in our home, and the most fear-inducing.

Here at the Cathedral, we encourage children to use their imaginations when engaging their faith. We tell stories and make believe and ask “I wonder” questions. We use puppets. We put on pageants. We dress up like whitewater rafters.

And I find myself wondering, is this a lost art for adults? And if so, when does imagination begin to fade? How can we reclaim it?

Jesus invites us to use our imaginations with every parable he tells. Some of the deepest truths can only be reached with imagination. But it is an art, and the less we value and exercise imagination, the harder it is to discover these truths.

I’m not exactly sure how to dust off one’s imagination. But I think it merits some consideration. Perhaps it’s reading more fiction, or teaching Sunday School to little children, or prayer. Paul exclaims in his letter to the Ephesians, “Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”

My prayer for these summer months is that we would discover our imaginations again. That we would have the courage to imagine a more loving world. That we would imagine with boldness God’s presence at every turn, God’s voice in our hearts, and God’s truth in our lives.

How will you exercise your imagination this summer?