Our Holy Childish Imagination
When my grandmother was a little girl she saw a headless man walking down the street in her neighborhood, holding his missing noggin under one arm.
Her sister saw the man, too, and ran screaming home, but my grandmother was frozen in place. She stood there paralyzed by fear as the man sauntered by, his head smiling at her as he passed.
Once, she re-told the story to me when I was in high school. "Mawmaw," I said to her, "you know that wasn't real, right?" Her eyes flashed at me. "I know what I saw!" she snapped.
Here's the thing... regardless of whether what she witnessed really happened, her memory of that mysterious moment persisted as a very real thing.
I have to admit, I have memories of some strange things I experienced as a child that I have always explained away but secretly wondered if perhaps there was something to them.
Like the time I jumped across a creek when I was seven, and I felt like I was flying, propelled forward by some force higher and farther than I could have ever dreamed I would go.
I remember landing and rolling on the ground, filled with wonder at the distance I'd traveled, and realizing that if I hadn't gone as far as I did, I would have probably been severely injured on the rocks in the creek.
Author Madeline L'Engle was a firm believer in the power of childhood imagination--almost to the point of miraculous. She once wrote about this in connection with the story of the Apostle Peter when he decided to get out of his boat to join Jesus, who was walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee.
When Jesus called Peter to come to him across the water, Peter, for one glorious moment, remembered how and strode with ease across the lake. This is how we are meant to be, and then we forget, and we sink.
It was Jesus, after all, who taught his followers that they needed to get in touch with their inner child if they wanted to experience the fullness of their connection to God.
Maybe one of the things he was trying to teach them was to suspend their adult disbelief and to make room for the possibility that they were meant for more.
Some years ago, one of my church members was diagnosed with cancer after a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. She was scheduled for surgery and was told to prepare for a long battle that would include radiation and chemotherapy.
Prior to a pre-surgical check-up, she asked for prayer from a group of friends at our church, and they surrounded her, laid hands on her, and took turns praying for her healing and restoration. There wasn't much hope that anything would change, but they did it anyway---praying for the best, and expecting the worst.
Only this time something was different. The Mayo Clinic doctors were astounded to report to her that there was no sign at all of the tumor they had previously discovered, and no sign of cancer anywhere else either.
This is where the story can easily devolve into questions about God and God's motives. Some might ask, "Well why her? Why did she get healed when my loved one didn't? There's no rhyme or reason to this."
I can't begin to explain these kinds of things in any theological terms that are satisfying and reasonable, and maybe that's the point.
Maybe miracles are happening all of the time---even in the midst of all of our struggles and disappointments---but because we have forgotten who we are, we miss most of them.
May you discover the faith of a child today, and reconnect with your childish imagination, which could be the very thing that enables you to experience God more fully.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.