…more than just the title of an iconic Beatles song, “imagine” is a powerful word. It’s really another word for “faith”. It’s a word that is born out of hope, as Hebrews 11 says… it’s the “things not seen” part of the verse. Things seen only in our minds, not in this temporal world. Things in our mind, in our imagination.
Imagine…today, tomorrow, and for a whole New Year.
What happens to our imaginations as we grow older? A child begins to imagine almost as soon as his thoughts become cognitive enough to connect reality with “pretend”. Just to watch a child at play is exhilarating if you still have a little imagination left.
Creativity must be encouraged within our homes in order for a child to understand that within his imagination lies the key to so much of his success in the future, and especially to his faith in God. Children have great faith- they truly believe there are monsters under the bed, or that a fairy tale will come true. They believe in Santa Claus. They believe what adults tell them. A bedroom becomes a castle or a kingdom. “Let’s pretend”, they say.
I did that too. I think of the things I pretended…the heroes I became, the battle sounds I made, the princesses I saved, the villains I destroyed…all within my imagination. Creating endlessly and enjoying the male-believe world of my imagination.
Of course, I didn’t live there. I lived in a real world. So at the end of my childhood fantasies, my mother’s voice would call, “Come in now, it’s time for bed”. That was reality. So I would drop the game, go inside, take a bath, and go to sleep. I knew tomorrow would be another chance to build my exciting world again.
Somehow as we age we seem to stop dreaming, creating, and pretending, especially those of us with rational, analytical minds. We become all too serious, forgetting that every discovery and invention began as a “what if…” or a “let’s pretend…” in someone’s mind. Just a thought, an idea, a dream; and then- they made it work. As Sandra Ingerman writes, “With our imagination, we have the ability to sculpt our world.”
As adults, we tend to leave imagination to the creative types. You know, those of artistic inclination. The artists, the musicians, the dramatists, the writers, the architects, seem to easily create reality out of their imaginations. Sometimes the more prosaic and pragmatic folks feel short-changed in the imagination department! Particularly if we were not encouraged as children to pretend, we have difficulty looking beyond reality into the “possible”.
It is critical to a child’s mental health to be allowed and encouraged to build forts, to play war games, to have tea parties, to be whatever he or she wants to be. Hanging blankets all around the house and messing up the kitchen creating banquets is all part of learning to use imagination. Why do kids love Minecraft? Because it’s a chance for them to build something just the way they want. It’s imagination. It’s a fantasy world that they have all for their own, and it’s fun. (time limits, of course)
There is such a thing as negative imagination. Maybe life with its harsh realities of pain and bad experiences feeds that wonderful imagination with negative and evil fuel. We can imagine what people are saying or thinking about us negatively. We create within our minds a place where we are the villain and someone else is the hero or the princess.
The Bible warns us about “evil imagination”. It is real, maybe at times too real; maybe at times needing to be disciplined.
For many people, an evil imagination is the only imagination they have left. Yes, they are creating a fantasy world in their heads, but what is it? Is it helpful? Positive? Or does it make them depressed and sad?
Imagination needs to be fed. You can’t build a fantasy world out of nothing. Experiences, books, education, relationships, pains and our value or belief system all feed our imagination.
Any thought or meditation that is not based on proven fact is imagination. The Bible speaks of “casting down imaginations.” There is a recognition that not everything “pretend” is good. Remember that though your thoughts are real, they may not all be true. They may be lies based in negative experiences. When negative emotion is connected to that creative part of our mind, we can very easily create evil with our imagination.
When our pain or suffering is joined to positive imagination- in other words, faith- we can create a mental image and an interior thought world that clarifies what is right and what is wrong. There is the secret to “casting down” the dark “let’s pretend”. Instead of a narrative of negativity, your mind creates a narrative of “what could God do with me in this situation?”
Don’t ever stop “pretending”. Use your imagination to enrich your life. Imagine what could be, or what God could do, or who you really are. I’ve never stopped imagining what good things could happen. I cast myself as a hero. I see the wonderful possibilities that might happen. I use my imagination to stir up a world of faith where God is the King and Jesus is the Prince and I am part of the battles and the victories.
Here are some ways to increase positive imagination:
- Live by faith. Faith says, “I believe things can be as God says they can be. Bad/sad/mad stuff can change, because nothing is impossible with God.”
- Live in the real world. Our real world may not be so good, but that’s where we actually are. Imagination does not try to day-dream our reality away. It hopes, dreams, plans, SEES… with faith.
- Expect the best. Things could be worse. Did you ever hear this statement: “Cheer up, things could be worse. So I cheered up, and sure enough- they got worse!” Positive imagination has optimism as its foundation. A problem is not just a problem. It’s a problem to be solved.
- Feed your mind on good things. Imagination is fed. Everything you read, hear, watch, and your own mental habits, all contribute to imagination. Feed it on good things!
- Use a little discipline in what you think. Negative thinking never goes anywhere. Stop it! Just don’t do it. Nip the negativity in the bud. Substitute a good “let’s pretend” for a bad “let’s pretend.”
Think of this coming year as a year of wonderful imagination where God will bring to pass new things. Expect, look for and plan on good things. IMAGINE what God can do through you and in you! His promise is that He is able to do more- MORE!- than we can even imagine within our finite minds.