God is the ultimate Imaginary Friend. This doesn’t mean he is unreal, only that we have to use our imaginations to picture him since he is immaterial. Because there is nothing tangible to experience with our five senses we have to conjure him from other images.
Training the imagination to “see” the invisible God involves what T. M. Luhrmann calls absorption.
The capacity to treat what the mind imagines as more real than the world one knows is the capacity at the heart of experience of God. The very concept of a god, a more-than-natural being rests on the premise that the world we know is not all of the world, nor indeed the most important part of it. The psychological capacity for absorption allows us to experience that concept as true.
Absorption gives us the ability to use our imagination to conceive of a being not in the world who nevertheless is the reason that the world exists. Absorption also gives us the capacity to imagine that being as good, because the world as it is does not naturally lend itself to the inference that its creator is wise and good.
The dichotomy in that last sentence is what trips me up; the irreconcilable differences between an all-powerful, all-loving Creator and the mess of a world we find ourselves in; a world suffused in pain, suffering, misery, loss, sorrow, grief, loneliness . . .
Jesus came into the world to make things right, but in a way that only exacerbates the dilemma since the quality of life hasn’t significantly improved in the two thousand years since his resurrection. Despite the blessings of Christianity there’s still so much that’s broken.
I know the pending promises of future blessing. I know that, “With God one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years are one day.” But with us it’s been l-o-n-g centuries soaked in blood and tears.
It’s hard to cling to an invisible God when drowning is a sea of visible suffering. But he’s our only hope.
If he is not our friend, we are sunk.