Brueggemann talks about the prophetic imagination in some powerful ways. For him, it is about an alternative consciousness with two lofty aims. First, it quietly seeks to dismantle the dominant consciousness. Then it hopes to energise the community of faith by promises of what will be.
I see this in my own leadership and living. That I have always struggled with the way things are. That sometimes I have been vocal and sometimes I have not. But always, even in my silence, others have perceived the strength of my convictions that what is is not yet what will be. I hear the whisper of the promise. Always. And it calls me on. I cannot help myself. I walk to that heartbeat, that Otherness, which echoes through my being.
Sometimes it gets me in trouble. Or, at least, it causes others to reject me. Because I cannot bring myself to do quite what it is they want. Because the prophetic in me cannot always be boxed by the dominant consciousness. No matter how hard I try. Wanting to conform, wanting to think the same as others, yet unable without compromising the very core of whom he has made me to be.
And thus often I stand alone. Aware, with breaking heart, that sometimes even my silence is construed as threat. As judgment. And my waiting on him as passivity, absence of strength. This is the dismantling of the dominant consciousness. And it looks like weakness.
The energising of prophetic leadership is not even necessarily any prettier. Brueggemann recognises in one of its dimensions that:
energy comes from the embrace of the inscrutable darkness that even the lord of the darkness does not discern…the alternative community…knows what Pharaoh does not know. It knows but it does not understand. It knows because it has submitted, and that submission begins when the cry was cried to the free one.
To live from the prophetic imagination is to embrace the darkness. Not always to fight it. Not always to declare that it depends on us to act. Yet what glory, for to embrace this darkness is subversion of the grandest degree! You see, in embracing the darkness we declare that we know what Pharaoh does not know, though we understand it not. We declare that the lord of the darkness is no lord at all. And that the Lord of all is working, though his works be hidden.
Our part in this, too, is weakness. For to cry to the free one is to submit. It is to cease from all efforts other than those which we hear him ask of us. And, because hearing is hard, knowing what he would have us do demands stillness of heart and soul and hand. For the whisper of the free one is apprehended only by those who surrender to their own finitude, our inability to accomplish the Isaianic deliverance in the earth, and yet believe the hope of the prophetic imagination.
In times for the church, and for the world too, of trouble and transformation, I hope for prophetic leaders who will live the tension well. Men and women so transfixed by the prophetic imagination that we will discover they cannot be boxed by the dominant consciousness, no matter how much they might long to conform. Prophets who will be known for their submission and their weakness before the free one. Because, in the end, only he will accomplish the deliverance and only he will destroy the darkness.
May he release the prophetic imagination in the earth.