The Common Good

The Spiritual Power of Imagination

Being blind in one eye has made me forever see in just two. While playing basketball, tennis, and hiking, I have always tried to imagine what it must be like to see in 3-D.

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I heard a program about a person who saw only in two dimensions for her entire life, but by awakening her imagination, and with the help of a development doctor, she was able to see in three dimensions. Her view of the world opened up so much after learning to see in 3-D. Part of her process of learning how to see in 3-D was through imagining the world in 3-D before actually seeing it.

What fascinated me about this story was the power of imagination. We are "imagination-poor" with all of our high tech movies. We don't have to imagine a hurricane or a war -- Hollywood can do it for us. Special effects can make a person fly and a space ship go past the speed of light, but it cripples us when it comes to a constructive use of imagination. Imagination is used to drive us away from reality. The fact that movies can so easily create the illusion of returning from the dead makes us less impressed by the gospel.

The true power of imagination is that it can be used to drive us toward reality and toward other people. Jesus commands us to treat others as we would treat ourselves and this is an ethic based on imagination. I have to imagine what I would like for the other in order to act. I imagine what it must be like to be a pregnant young mother with your husband in the hospital and with two sick children. I have a friend in this exact situation and I imagine her distress. It makes me more compassionate.

Imagination is a skill that needs to always be exercised, or like under-worked muscles, it atrophies. It is a spiritual disciple to imagine the life of God incarnate, Jesus. It transforms us.

I am resolved, for just ten minutes a day, to imagine a scene from Jesus' life, and not to put myself in the scene. It is too easy to make myself a hero in the narrative, and read myself into the story. Instead, I want to start seeing better spiritually -- to see in 3-D.

portrait-ernesto-tinajero1Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at

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