I love the world of fantasy films and literature. Ranging from comic books and movies, to the Arthurian legends, to Harry Potter; I love stories of superpowers, magic, and mythical creatures (especially dragons!). Though I’m clear about the line between reality and fantasy, I find that an immersive story can blur the lines where the worlds of sorcerers and superheroes feel just as real as this one, at least for a moment.
I’m currently reading Wishsong, the third installment of the Sword of Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks; a series of stories set in the far future, following Great Wars that annihilated the Earth as we know it, and the emergence of a world populated by humans, elves, dwarves, trolls, druids, evil… and magic. Brooks is an excellent writer and, as with all great fiction, the characters and story-lines begin to feel “real.”
Yesterday, I saw “Avengers: Infinity War” in 3D. Though I’m a sucker for superhero movies, and have never seen one I didn’t love, this particular movie, in my opinion, crosses new thresholds. The storyline, cinematography, animation and special effects blended perfectly to create a truly immersive experience that felt like reality. As 18 Marvel movies preceded “Infinity War,” the characters comprising the Avenger team have, for fans, become personal heroes and friends. The shocking end of the movie (spoiler alert), for a true fan, felt utterly devastating – even if it’s only a fantasy story.
Then, this morning, I came across an interesting verse of Scripture…
“It is by faith that we understand that the ages were created by a word from God, so that from the invisible the visible world came to be.” (Hebrews 11:3, New Jerusalem Bible)
The “Study Notes” in my New Jerusalem Bible add, “Creation seen with the human eye of faith reveals ‘unseen reality’: before creation everything real existed in God from whom everything comes.”
For a person of faith, talk of “unseen reality” seems completely reasonable and rationale. We read passages like this without a nano-second of doubt. “Of course there’s a God. Of course God created everything. Of course there are unseen realities.” But, try to imagine reading those words without faith, and they begin to sound a lot like fantasy.
In 10th grade, I had a teacher that talked about the difference between sanity, insanity, and unsanity. Sanity, as she described it, is a 100% accurate perception of reality. Insanity is a completely distorted perception of reality. Unsanity falls somewhere between sanity and insanity. She taught that we’re all unsane. As evidenced by conflicting witness testimonies in court trials, and the vastly contradictory reporting by the news media, we all see “reality” from vastly different perspectives and interpretations. No one is capable of 100% accuracy.
We’re all unsane – hopefully falling closer to sanity than insanity. But, we’re unsane, nonetheless!
Saying I enjoy escaping into fantasy movies and literature should sound entirely sane, even if you don’t appreciate the genre.
On the other hand, if I say I believe the Avengers actually exist, in real life, you might think I’m insane, or at least very naive.
But, what do we do with faith? Where does faith fall on the spectrum of reality and fantasy; sanity, insanity, and unsanity? After all, to unbelievers, talk of a spiritual world – filled with angels, demons, prophets, and miracles – likely sounds like fantasy. Belief in an unseen God, who is the invisible source of everything “real,” likely sounds insane!
But, what if Hebrews 11:3 is right? What if reality includes both the visible and invisible, spiritual and material, ordinary and extraordinary? What if ignoring or denying unseen spiritual realities is actually insane – a complete distortion of reality? And, what if, most of us – including believers – spend most of our lives completely out-of touch and out-of-sync with the most important aspects of reality – the unseen and spiritual?
What if denying God, and unseen spiritual realities, is insanity?
What if believing in God, but rarely actually engaging the invisible world of the spirit, is unsanity?
And, what if those who deny the existence of God are actually insane?
I choose sanity. I choose mystery. I choose faith in a God I cannot see. I choose to believe a man named Jesus was the “visible image of the invisible God.” I choose to believe prayer and contemplation connect me with deeper spiritual realities. I choose to believe the line between heaven and earth, seen and unseen, is quite “thin.” I choose to believe that love, compassion, sacrifice, beauty, goodness and “Truth” are far more real than the distorted half-realities this world values so dearly. I choose to embrace the fullness of reality; including faith and science, seen and unseen, reasonable and unexplainable. I choose to believe that what I am only able see partially in this life, I will someday clearly see “face to face.” I choose ALL reality.
I choose spiritual sanity.
So, what about you? Sane, unsane, or insane?