This week I encountered an article about online fatigue or burnout. The overall message, I
thought, was that too much online meant people became tired and became inefficient. It was-
n’t so much the actual hours in front of the screen – though that cannot be ignored – it was
more the over stimulation and concentration we tend
to do in front of the screens as we concentrate on
everyone including our own reactions. When physical-
ly in a room with someone we listen and note the non
verbal behaviour but we are not seeing ourselves. On
the phone you can listen attentively but also you can
be looking out the window or doodling as well. It was
then that I read this adage which I don’t remember
ever hearing before. ‘I prefer radio to TV because the
pictures are clearer.’
The theory goes that when we are imaginatively in-
volved in the moment we are better engaged – listen-
ing, responding, being productive – and this motivates
or energises us. Often motivation is thought of in terms of beliefs or desires both of which
motivate us. However the article suggested that imagination motivates us as well and imagi-
nation is the province of words and stories – and that got my attention.
You see my ‘working world’ – and our personal ‘faith world’ – are all about words and a story
that have a hidden dimension to them. When we read the Bible, think about or discuss Bap-
tism, even partake in Holy Communion then the words help us see more clearly, imaginative-
ly, personally, or in church jargon ‘by faith’ that Jesus is with us.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I am not a fan of religious films is the power of
the image to somehow set or fix or concretise the words. That’s why I also don’t like films or
even theatre about historical persons or events that don’t stick to the historical ‘skeleton’ –
the accepted dates and events. Ok, one might interpret the history from different vantage
points or focus on different details but don’t tell me this is an account of a person or an event
when the known history has been changed ‘to make the story better’ or ‘to help the drama’.
This is a challenge to truth in my opinion! It is also a limiting or diminishing of my imagination
because the visual is so dominant.
In Lent we watch Jesus journey to the cross. When I say ‘watch’ I mean that we read or hear
the account and we imagine the scene and focus – imagine – think about – are drawn to the
aspects that are important to us. Today our Lenten devotional booklet ‘God, Unmasked’ is
available where we zero in on the two days before the Passover and what happens next.
Members and friends of Ascension, Good Shepherd, Ipswich, and Redeemer have written a
daily devotion and prayer that help us look at the scene before us – the Bible reading – by
telling us what to focus on in our imagination. We have the scene in our mind’s eye and we
are guided where to look and the point is that this engages us and energises us. Our imagi-
nation and faith are at work.
From our experience this is what we are doing, we are active – but when it comes to the story
of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation – we also believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding us.
Jesus is not a product of our imagination. He is not made in our image. Rather Jesus’
words and story – of God interacting with the world – have power to create and sustain
a new life in this world – a life in Christ, grounded in words, encountered in water and
bread and wine – and also imagined in our heads and hearts – and thus we are motivat-
ed to follow him. And that’s called discipleship – and it can happen even when we are
fatigued or feeling burnt out – because God’s Word made flesh is alive for us and will
not abandon us. Jesus makes living each day clearer. GS