Imagine a day in the future when you go looking for something in your house and you stumble across a pile of face masks. All the memories of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 come flooding back into your mind. You might even pick up one of those masks, put it on your face and remember the world-wide scourge that stubbornly refused to leave. You soon forget all about whatever it is you were looking for when you found the masks.
Or again, at some future date, you go to shake someone’s hand or give them a hug and remember how handshakes were replaced by fist bumps and then elbow touches and finally no touching at all. Six feet separated us.
Imagine going to the checkout line at the grocery store, gas station or home improvement center and there is no clear plastic shield separating you and the clerk. And there are no markers on the floor indicating how far you should stand from the next person in line. Are stores going to hang on to their shields just in case they are needed again, just as we most certainly will hang on to our masks?
Imagine when we will be able to go to a packed ball park, stadium or concert venue and cheer wildly for our favorite athletes or musicians.
Imagine opening up the newspaper or checking your news feed online and there are no articles about the pandemic.
Or imagine going to church on Sunday and sitting right next to a fellow member and singing your hearts out side by side and later passing the offering plate from one person to the next.
Our imaginations are such a great gifts from God. I can’t imagine life without my imagination. Truly no great invention or accomplishment – including all the creative ways we are dealing with this pandemic – ever came to be without someone first imagining it. And yes, I can imagine when this pandemic will be over.
It’s harder for me to imagine when the racial unrest that is also plaguing our country at this time will be over. Is it my imagination or are far more resources being spent on defeating the pandemic than are being spent on rectifying the conditions that have led so many people across the country to protest? We’ve made progress against the pandemic. When will we see signs of progress in the fight for human dignity for all?
God’s love for us is not something we have to imagine. It is very real. Our holy, almighty God could not imagine being separated from us sinners. So he sent his own dear Son to suffer and die for all our sins and rise from the dead to bring us back into full fellowship with him. This Good News may not create many scientific breakthroughs but it is the most powerful force to defeat discrimination, hatred and violence. This Good News is what we need to keep in mind when our imaginations spark anxiety over things like nuclear war, natural disasters and unchecked violence.
The Bible takes a realistic view of our imaginations. Psalm 41 verse 7 speaks of the sinful use of our imagination: “All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.” (ESV)
The Apostle Paul speaks about the worst possible use of our imagination – imagining up new gods to worship – in Acts 17, verse 29: “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” (ESV)
Again, the Apostle Paul, paraphrasing the great Old Testament prophet Isaiah, points out that the good things God has promised us are beyond our imaginations:
“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.’” (I Corinthians 2:9, ESV)
I am looking forward to the day when I will come home, take off my face mask and tuck it away in a drawer. I won’t throw it away because in this world you never know when another highly communicable disease might raise its ugly head. Because of what Jesus did in reconciling us sinners to God, I know that I won’t need any kind of shield or mask when I stand before God on the Last Day. The reconciling love we have received through faith in Christ is the most powerful force available to help us live in peace with each other.