When I sit with friends who know me fairly well and we begin to talk about VP3 and what we are up to as an organization, I will often confide to them that we are in “the imagination business.” And then I tell them this story.
Over 20 years ago a few friends and I sat together in a TCBY yogurt in La Mirada, CA with a wise and faithful older man who resonated with a palpable sense of God’s presence. Around the table that evening he asked each of us, “Where are you at tonight?” When it came my turn to answer, a question emerged within me as if it had been floating to the surface for some time, and then, in that particular moment, it broke through the surface.
Over the prior three years, I had begun to be aware of my deep despair. I was tired of trying so hard to believe. All the theology that I knew in my mind seemed distant from my heart. Was it all really true? Did God really care? Why did he seem so absent? Why did my life not make sense?
All these questions had swirled in my consciousness, but this evening, sitting in a bright green store of fluorescent light and linoleum tables and air conditioning, listening with my friends to a most unusual man, this question seemed apt. I needed to ask it. It felt like he really would know the answer. So I asked, “What is God like?” (In retrospect I imagine in his response the intensity and delight of little Lucy Pevensie speaking of Narnia’s Aslan, if anyone had asked her about him.) He looked across the table, his face lit up, he leaned forward, and he confided, “Rob, he is beyond your wildest imaginations.”
That evening those few words blindsided me, consoled me, and inexplicably transformed my vision of the world. He is beyond your wildest imaginations. More than words were communicated to me that evening. God’s Spirit “called me aside,” comforted me, and confided in me. Deep places breathed with life and possibility and wonder where there was only doubt and despair and isolation. God loved me. I never anticipated a moment so generous, so full with life, so good, so gracious. It was pure gift.
Walter Brueggemann says “imagination is the capacity to image a world beyond what is obviously given.” So many of us suffer from a sort of tunnel vision—seeing our individual lives, and all of reality for that matter, as far less than what it really is. Our imaginations need to be stretched; the blinders need to come off. And thankfully this is what the Spirit of God is already up to in our lives—stretching our shrunken imaginations of who God is, who we are, and what God desires to do through us.
We at VantagePoint3 have always been in the imagination business, the work of providing a supportive and challenging space for men and women to encounter a God who is far beyond their wildest imaginations … a God who loves them extravagantly and calls them particularly to join his blessing mission in the world (Gen. 12:1-3).
May we be open to the Spirit surprising us and comforting us and calling us aside, breathing life and possibility and wonder into those deep places where we know only doubt and despair and isolation. Let the name of Jesus live out…
(This TCBY story is adapted from The VP3 Pathway — Year 2: A Way of Life.)