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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Theological Imagination

I don’t know the first thing about “Theological Imagination.” Over the last week I have seen that phrase a disproportionate number of places. So, when a theologian used it in a conversation with me, I made a point of asking him to explain what he understands it to mean.

His response: the “capacity to wonder.” Further, he mentioned that theology has the ability to break us out of complacency with the world around us, to see it again with fresh eyes. Basically, our theological imagination invites us to wonder about God.

So does parenting.

First, by observing how I relate to our children, I wonder about how I relate to God as a loving parent.

Case in point, our Simon is the most high-energy in the family. Not in the “hyper” sense. He just generally seeks out active ways to fill his time: running or playing sports outside, jumping around his room or the living room playing a make-believe game, or trying to keep up with following his big brother around.

At the same time Simon is also our cuddle bug. That is to say that even in the midst of his running here and there, if I reach out, pull him to my lap, and wrap my arms around him, he is just like a kitten. You know how they dangle as their mothers carry them gently by the neck. He just settles right down and melts into me quietly and we get to share a moment.

How does this make me wonder about how I relate to God?

I—God’s child—rush around filling my time with everything that interests me and needs to be done. When are the moments that God sees me running past and reaches out to pull me in saying, “Be still and know I’m God”? (Psalm 46) Do I recognize those invitations? Am I the kind of child that responds affirmatively by listening and by settling down and melting into God’s embrace? Or sometimes do I maybe put God off or wriggle free prematurely? If the latter, what am I missing out on?

Second, by observing how my children relate to the world, I wonder about how God calls me to be in relationship with the world.

For example, sweet Lucy is all kinds of sugar and spice. But she fundamentally encounters the world with a smile and by assuming goodwill.

If we are sitting at dinner and I make eye contact or address one of the boys, they will take a moment or two to size me up, what I am saying and how I am saying it before speaking or responding. If I do the same with Lucy, a smile is her first and immediate response. She is first and foremost just happy to be in relationship. And for her relationship means offering love and acceptance.

How does this make me wonder about how God calls me to be in relationship?

I wonder if I offer others, especially those in my family, love and acceptance first and foremost? Do I assume goodwill of the words and actions of others? Or do I size up the situation before measuring and deciding what to offer in a response?

Ultimately, theological imagination is about cultivating a Eucharistic worldview. In the Eucharist what we see is bread and wine, but the eyes of faith tell us what is immediately apparent is not actually all there is to see. God is present.

On the outside, what is visible in parenting–cultivating and managing personalities, interests, and energy–is not actually all there is to see. Our children can assist our formation of a theological imagination. Raising them and observing them helps us to see with the eyes of faith and with wonder. God is present.