Imagination is the practice that can allow us to enter into the sacred mystery for ourselves, and then express and embody it so it may touch everyone around us. While not a dictionary definition, I see the sacred as the unexplainable mystery, that energy that lives all around us and deep inside us. It is constantly waiting for us and calling out to us at the same time. The sacred is that place of deepest well-being, where we can experience a sense of grace, joy, and peace regardless of the outer circumstances. It is that place where spirit can surprise us, sending the right person at just the right time, or sending a sudden inspiration. It is also all creation, which represents the sacred by its very existence. The sacred adds meaning and depth to our lives, and without it, the world loses its soul, and we who live in it lose our way.
In Franciscan theology, we follow in the footprints of Jesus, who incarnated out of love, to show humans how to be more human, and to teach us how to bring Heaven to earth. We are asked to live as a sign of hope in our times, which we can only do when we are in deep communion with this sacred energy.
It takes great imagination to express this sacred mystery, but in today’s world, imagination is easily pushed aside by technology which wants to do everything for us, by people’s efforts to hold on to power at any cost, and by that ever-increasing desire for speed. With rampant consumerism, intolerance, vitriol, and violence, we need expressions of the sacred to bring us back to our own humanity and to restore our own souls. But how?
I believe we come closest to finding this expression through engaging in intentional practices such as art, music, dance, ritual, celebrations, and other creative forms of play. Such practices allow us to reach beyond our everyday thinking and to connect with that sacred energy that is so universal. For myself, When I am overwhelmed by life and despair over so much suffering around me, I often retreat to my guitar and to singing. Here, I connect with something deeper that seems capable of holding all that is beyond me. I have had many soul-stirring moments in my own living room where the sacred reshaped my world, even if for a moment.
Not surprisingly, imagination could not be contained in my living room, so I volunteered for a while in a church where homeless people gathered to sleep, tell stories, and spend time in safety. Every Friday, I sang songs of hope and love, joy and connection, humor, and gratitude while they prepared to go back out onto the street for the weekend. I could feel that sacred presence as I sang, and once outside, I felt it in those who had heard me sing. I would hear people humming some of my melodies. I heard them taking care of each other as they made plans for the night. I felt their love as they guided my guitar and me into the Lyft car. I even heard one man exclaim: “God is singing inside of us now. Don’t mess it up.”
No, I did not change their circumstances, but I do believe that by expressing the sacred as I did, their own imaginations came alive to guide and support them through their own struggles. We were all changed by the experience; I developed a real gratitude for their courage and their gifts; they blossomed when I thanked them for who they were as humans. How does the sacred live in you? How do you express it?
As Franciscans, we are committed to imagining a better world, and to expressing those dreams in our daily lives. Each of us has gifts to share as a means of expressing sacred or Divine energy, and we welcome your contributions. Whether alone or with others, allow your imagination to lead you. Write a poem, draw, walk with love in your step as you go down the street! And notice how the sacred is being expressed through others and how that is impacting you.
Healing this world can often seem next to impossible, but I believe that through imagination, we can find practices to move the sacred through us, ignite it in others, and, as Francis did, bring a little more Heaven to earth.
How does the Sacred live in me?
When have I experienced the Sacred blossoming?
How do I express this in my daily life?