Imagination and the Infinite Story

“We are all limited to five senses (that we know of), and we must live in and interact with this world, with art and language that is much too big for us. But we also have imaginations and a creative impulse of our own. We watch, we study, we try to translate and understand the enormity of the story going on around us. We try to process a play that has been written by the infinite for the infinite.”

— N.D. Wilson

I love what Wilson expressed here. The stories we write and the stories we read reflect back elements of a greater story. Through our stories, we grapple with things beyond our comprehension.

We have the opportunity to engage with the eternal things God has set in the heart of man and bring our small glimpses of them down to earth. For me, reading and writing fantasy opens a window into these things.

Though we view through a glass dimly, God reveals so much of His nature and eternal purpose to us. And He has given us the ability to imagine and create. As Wilson said, by these means we interact with the great story God has written, a story that unfolds through human history and beyond. It’s a gift given to those made in His image.

If you’re not a writer, how does the creative impulse come out? And if you do write, how does the knowledge of the greater story influence your work? Any other thoughts?

Image credit: The Uprooted Photographer

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10 Responses to Imagination and the Infinite Story

  1. L.M. Sherwin says:

    For me, I am always cognizant of the fact that fantasy, and fiction stories in general, have the power to express truth in creative ways. For instance, I feel like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories are very central to my life for this very reason. I feel like Lewis’ words express truth about the greater story even if they are telling a fantastical story. I try to write about real issues between people in fantastical settings. I try to present interesting stories that transcend generational and situational differences. I try to write stories that strike the heart of man. Don’t we all?

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Well said, L.M.! The ability of fantasy to portray truth in a fresh context is one of the reasons fantasy grabbed me as a reader (and subsequently led to my writing in the genre). I’ll never forget certain moments when God used these sorts of stories to quicken truth in my heart. Of course, that’s not the only reason I love the genre, but it’s certainly a key component.

  2. But _are_ we limited to the five empirical senses? Only empiricists normally say that, and Christianity and empiricism are mutually exclusive–even moreso than Christianity and atheism (if atheism is the disbelief in an actual space-filling deity). No, we have far more than five senses in operation at all times. The classic five are only the physical ones.

    I am not a Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) writer, and never will be. I wouldn’t want to be under the present legalism pervading Christendom and thus the CBA. But, that does not keep me, as a writer, from penning everything that I write from a Biblical perspective and vision. God gave me this talent and has always expected me to use it for Him. I have been given no other choice, though I have not always obeyed.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      You’re right that the five senses pertain to the physical ways we interact with the world and by no means encompass the sum total of the senses we’re given. In fact, the section of the book that preceded this quote (you always have to cut off somewhere) discusses other matters relating to the senses, including how many more senses God might have intended for man before the Fall–things we can’t even imagine. I think of the areas of the brain that remain a mystery to scientists. What sort of capacity was it originally intended to have? It’s interesting to consider, and even more interesting to consider what it will be like when God restores all things.

      I know that writers both inside and outside the CBA market seek to write from a Scriptural viewpoint. To my mind, it’s neither better or worse to publish in a given market or form. It’s a matter of what God calls you to do and where your stories fit. He has a place for each of us and receives honor when we use our talents for Him!

  3. I sometimes think I have more of a creative impulse than is good for me. It spills over from writing into art, jewelry making, sewing, and various other pursuits. I just can’t help it. 🙂
    I in no way consider myself an evangelistic writer, but my goal for everything I write is for it to reveal something about God to my readers. Whether a story I’ve written is simply a showcase of some aspect of His nature, or offers a way of thinking that a reader perhaps hadn’t noticed before, my desire is to make it all about God. In the fantasy series I’m writing currently, each story is intended to showcase something about God and His truth, while the series as a whole tells the overarching story of His plan for the world where the stories are set.
    Great post, Sarah. I love the way you can craft these thought-provoking questions!

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Mary, I know what you mean. I dabble in other creative activities now, and I would love to plunge in if I had more time. Maybe I will have more opportunity in the in the future, but right now writing is my main creative outlet. 🙂

      I in no way consider myself an evangelistic writer, but my goal for everything I write is for it to reveal something about God to my readers. Whether a story I’ve written is simply a showcase of some aspect of His nature, or offers a way of thinking that a reader perhaps hadn’t noticed before, my desire is to make it all about God. In the fantasy series I’m writing currently, each story is intended to showcase something about God and His truth

      You expressed this well, and I share your desire. The spiritual element may look different from story to story, but I want my all books to reveal God.

  4. Wow! The greater pic plays so much when you write with strong elements of allegory. And what is crazy is how someone who reads a story will point out these elements that I didn’t even realize were there at times. I love remembering that God wrote the original story and we can always pull from that 🙂

    p.s. how’s the family?

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Yes, there’s so much to be explored from His story–countless elements that our stories can reflect. Just considering it amazes me. 🙂

      Thanks for asking about my family. My sisters are on the road to healing, but my SIL is still in a coma. Her physical condition is improving and she’s becoming more responsive, but she hasn’t woken up. We’re hoping it will be soon!

  5. Maria Tatham says:

    Dear Sarah,

    I like your post and the quote from Wilson. For me, it’s important to realize that we’re in HIS all-important Story, and so in all that I write I try to affirm and honor that Story. Sometimes what I write affirms and honors it only indirectly.

    We know that the ‘sons of God’ sang for joy at the Creation. His creatures experience joy in creating because He does – obviously, as you know. To create for Him, keeping all He has said and done in mind, is one of the deepest and finest joys we know, and a kind of communion and conversation with Him.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Maria, good point about the many ways a story can honor God. It doesn’t have to be overt–subtle threads of a story can reveal His nature. I believe if we walk in intimate relationship with Him, our creativity will flow in a way that reflects Him. As you said, it’s a conversation and communion with Him!

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