photo of Peter and toddler Penny sitting outside looking at each other

Using the Spiritual Imagination as a Vehicle for Hope

A few months after Penny was first born, I realized that I lacked an imagination for a good future for our family. What little understanding I had of life with Down syndrome seemed sad to me, and the information I received in the hospital and online only reinforced my thought that the life ahead for us was scary and possibly even tragic. But then I started to hear about people with Down syndrome who went to hip-hop class or who loved working in a grocery store. Someone gave me a book with big black-and-white photos of people with Down syndrome riding bikes and laughing with siblings and eating meals and giving hugs. I met a few adults with Down syndrome in person, and I recognized the beauty and contentment in their lives.
I knew that Penny would not live any of these specific lives in their particularity. But I also began to imagine a life with Down syndrome that was good and full, albeit different from the life I had previously imagined for our children. It was because of that book, and those individuals, that I started blogging and sharing both images and stories about our family. I wanted to be a part of shaping the imagination of other parents of kids with Down syndrome, and then, ultimately, to be a part of shaping the imagination of our entire culture.
When I use the word imagination, I am not talking about fantasy. I’m referring to the things that need to be envisioned in order to become possible. We use our imaginations to create an image of the future, and out of those images, we hope.
The spiritual imagination relies on truths given to us by the Spirit of God, and it carries us from an uncertain and frightening present to a future filled with possibilities. It helps us gather strength and courage. It tethers us to promise. It connects us to a story of love written by the one who is love and who creates, redeems, and sustains us all.
So if you are in a hopeless place right now, look for people who can help you imagine a good future, even if the strand tethering your story to theirs feels tenuous. Together, we can shift the vision of our culture and create a path of possibility.
Photo from years ago! Penny is now a senior in high school.

More with Amy Julia:

Reshaping Our Cultural Imagination
How the Spiritual Imagination Moves Us Towards Hope
S6 E22 | Why Stories of Hope Subvert Racism with John Blake

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