Since the movie, I Can Only Imagine hit theaters, I’ve had imagination on my mind quite a bit lately. It’s something I’ve been talking about with others and something I’ve written about in a Bible Study journal.
For Christians, our ability to “see” the unseen is vital to our walk with the Lord in this world. But how we do that is anything but obvious. This is why reflection and journaling are beneficial.
In a previous post, I mentioned four ways to revitalize our Christian imagination and start seeing the world “through the eyes of our hearts” (Eph 1:18).
- See the Bigger Picture
- Bring Everything You’ve Got
- Dare to Be Creative
- Redefine What’s Possible
Today, I want to take a closer look at my first suggestion, seeing the bigger picture.
We All Have a Story
Bart: an 8-year old boy, abandoned by his mother and abused by his father.
Adele: a young wife, verbally terrorized by her mentally unstable husband.
Arthur: a broken man, stuck in a pattern of physical and emotional abuse he can’t explain.
The details may look different, but we all have a story to tell filled with bad beats, lucky breaks, and everything in between. So, we can imagine ourselves in any of their shoes—looking at our bleak little world and wondering if and how we’ll ever break free.
For Bart, at least, imagination was his ticket out of that small and scary existence. Through his childlike imaginings, he was able to see something much bigger and more hopeful than the pain he suffered at home.
Every Story Is Part Of a Bigger Picture
The first step in learning to see the bigger picture is to acknowledge that there is a bigger picture to be seen. Unfortunately, that point isn’t as apparent as it used to be.
Towards the end of the 20th century, a new set of ideas began to take hold in philosophy, art, architecture, and literary criticism—Postmodernism. The philosopher and literary theorist, Jean-François Lyotard, characterized this new movement as an “incredulity towards metanarratives.”
Translation: the “big stories” philosophers and theologians tell aren’t real; they’re just power plays meant to justify a particular tribe or thinker’s slant on reality.
There is no bigger picture out there—only the little pictures we project onto the universe as a way of coping with our existence and controlling others. What we need to do is give each other the space to hold on to our little pictures without hurting anyone.
Is That Right?
There are plenty of things we can say for and against Postmodernism; Christians have been flying that kite for a couple of decades now. But, the one thing we have to say in response is this: there IS a bigger picture!
Every Circumstance Has Purpose In Your Story
In the Bible, we meet a God who created the world with a definite purpose in mind: to bring everything to its ultimate climax in Jesus Christ (Col 1:15-20).
This is the big picture that:
- draws in a broken old man and his infertile wife, gives them a son, and uses them to bless the world (Genesis 21).
- sets a crown on a young man’s head and sets him off to stare at the sky, wondering what God is doing (Psalm 8).
- invites a disgraced adulterer to become one of the first witnesses to God’s universal work of redemption (John 4).
Time For a Vision Readjustment
Our little pictures, just like those of Abraham, David, and Sarah, fit perfectly into the vast landscape God is painting. To see it, we need a vision readjustment.
Or, as Paul would say, we need the eyes of our hearts to be opened (Eph 1:18).
In his mind, the heart was so much more than a fleshy blood-pump. Instead, it was the center of our very being—the totality of our thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
To see with the eyes of our hearts, then, takes more than a new set of spiritual bifocals; it takes an inner transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit.
How do we flow with the Holy Spirit in that work?
Hold On To These Three Things
I’d like to suggest three words to hold on to: faith, hope, and love.
Faith — Like Abraham, we take God at his Word. Even when our circumstances scream otherwise, we take it on faith that there is a bigger picture, one in which we play an integral part as members of God’s royal family.
Hope —Unlike those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13), we peer into a guaranteed future in Christ (Col 3:4). This hope keeps us from despair and allows us to live in anticipation of that day when Christ will return in glory.
Love — When the Samaritan woman’s right Husband appeared (Rev 19:7), she realized that the deepest longing of her heart could only be satisfied by Him. When that perfect lover appeared, her shame evaporated, and she immediately joined with him in his worldwide mission.
Hope keeps us from despair and allows us to live in anticipation of that day when Christ will return in glory.
Dare To Imagine
Seeing the bigger picture means embracing the work of God’s Spirit as He transforms us into the kind of people who see Him and His world with the totality of our being.
It takes a complete transformation, so that we no longer live as the writer of Ecclesiastes did—blinded by his little picture of life’s meaninglessness “under the sun.”
So, dare to imagine. Take your eyes off your circumstances and focus them on the bigger picture God has drawn in Christ. That’s your calling. It’s also your gift.
Take your eyes off your circumstances and focus them on the bigger picture God has drawn in Christ.
Go deeper in Bart Millard’s story of redemption and forgiveness. Find hope and purpose in our 28-day study of Jesus’s life and ministry. Our beautifully designed Bible study journal is effective as a stand-alone study or as a participant’s guide for the “I Can Only Imagine” Video Series. Embark on a journey through the Gospels to discover Jesus’ encounters with broken people. Each day will include scripture, reflective questions, and prayer–all working together to reveal God’s incredible heart for you!
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