I recently came across an incredible poem by Edwin Muir called “The Transfiguration,” first published in 1949. Muir describes a moment in which the earth was transfigured before his eyes, and he saw everything as it was intended to be. The following are a couple of excerpts from the poem:
So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists
As fresh and pure as water from a well,
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world.
Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
And nowhere? Was the change in us alone,
And the enormous earth still left forlorn,
An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world
We saw that day made this unreal, for all
Was in its place.
I’d recommend reading that over a few times. I find Muir’s expression of this simple but profound concept fascinating. It’s so simple, but it strikes a chord in me.
We are so familiar with the fallenness of this world, and we never stop to consider what this world could be. Imagine if “the source of all our seeing” really was “rinsed and cleansed.” How would we think about and interact with this world if we could see it as God intended it to be? What if we could see the world as it hasn’t been seen since Eden?
I love thinking about this because it gets me excited about possibilities. When I look at my flowerbed, I see the beauty that God placed within His creation, but I also see that beauty diminished by the effects of the fall (namely, weeds). But with the right vision of how this world could be, I can picture my flowerbed in light of the beauty that God intends for it to have, and then I can labor to make that beauty a reality.
You may not care too much about your flowerbed (though the doctrine of creation might convince you that you should), but you probably do care about your relationships. Counseling requires the same sort of imagination and renewed vision. Sometimes I look at a relationship and all I can see are manifestations of sin and fallenness. But with the right vision of how this world could be, I can picture that relationship transfigured. And then I can labor with the power of the Spirit to see that vision become a reality.
Sometimes we think that imagination pulls us away from reality and truth. But if it’s used properly, imagination can actually help us shape reality into the kind of thing that God wants it to be—both in the future when He makes all things new, and today as we labor to see His kingdom come and His will done.