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Imagine Something New

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I’m not a big fan of the unknown. There’s too much, well, unknown about it. I need plans. I have questions. I like to know what I’m getting myself into. I like to be prepared.

One way I relieve my anxiety around the unknown is by first imagining myself “doing the thing.” For a difficult conversation I’ve never had before, I play it out in my mind first, considering ways to explain myself and responses to possible objections.

When a thing is so new I can’t imagine it, I research it to inform my imagination. For example, when someone proposes a restaurant I’ve never visited, I look up the menu to know what kind of food to expect and use Street View on Google Maps to see the building (making it easier to find). I also investigate the parking situation because parallel street parking is something else I need to prepare for!

Having researched the thing and imagined what it will be like, I feel more confident when it’s time to do the thing.

Because every pope since at least Pope Paul VI focused on a new evangelization and being “on mission” to make disciples who share the Good News and radiate Christ, the Church has prioritized intentional accompaniment and the Gospel’s proclamation.

But how can we live our faith with the expected courage and joy if we cannot imagine what that life—of a missionary disciple—actually looks like?

It’s difficult to do what we can’t imagine. I can’t even go to a new restaurant without trepidation, let alone proclaim the Gospel, initiate faith conversations, pray spontaneously in public, defend my faith or do the many other things that missionary disciples do. How am I going to step into the great unknown that is the mystery of God and deepen my relationship with Him when this, too, stands to be so radically new?

I thus propose that we tackle the bold Christian life like we tackle any new thing: by informing our imagination.

As with any period of research and preparation, it helps to proceed systematically. Let’s start with fundamental questions.

First, what are the Christian things you wish you could do better? Maybe pray more regularly or increase your biblical literacy. Whatever it is, write it down, make a list. Then, take each item and consider, “What can I do to be more confident in this?” Perhaps there’s a book, YouTube or TikTok creator, podcast or Facebook Group that could help. Set a deadline for getting that help, then start learning.

Is there someone you admire for their Christian knowledge or way of life? Try to spend more time with them. Watch, listen and learn from them. Ask if they’re willing to mentor you. It’s a game changer when you have people in your life who live the way you want to live!

This research and preparation will inform your imagination so you will be able to “see” yourself living as a missionary disciple.

Of course, at some point you have to move beyond imagining and start being and doing your best for Jesus. Practice makes perfect, and God makes perfect too. Evangelization and discipleship are the work of the Spirit, and He’s always with you.

As you study, watch, listen, go and do, you will cultivate an imagination for the newness God has in store for you—and you will be able to seize that newness with confidence.

Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization. | [email protected]

This article appeared in the August 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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