Awakening to the Imagination

The awakening sunI have a confession to make: I have spent most of my life suspicious of the imagination, especially mine. I equated the imagination with the imaginary. Hence, it was unreal, untrue, and untrustworthy. It may be OK for kids to play with, but definitely not for grown men. But in the past ten years, I have awakened to the imagination, and in awakening to it, I have stumbled into the presence of God. Now I see the imagination as a primary conduit to all that is most good and holy about our lives as men. Let me explain.

  1. Our imagination is one of the most important ways we bear God’s image. He creates all of reality out of His thoughts by the words of His mouth. When we use our imagination, we become sub-creators, able to take the reality around us and arrange it in infinite ways, creating our own sub-worlds.
  2. Nothing important or meaningful has ever happened in civilization without the use of the imagination. Start with what an artist does with a blank canvas or what a sculptor does with a block of marble. They picture something not there and then call it into reality by their art. But a musician does this too, as well as the architect, the author, the poet, and the athlete. Each of these imagines something before they bring it into reality.
  3. Our rationality speaks in terms of propositions that reason can grasp and follow. We analyze and edit and dispute and discern. But the heart best speaks in terms of images. These images say more than our words can tell. Our deepest feelings and desires come to the surface through our imagination.
  4. The Psalms literally beg us to use our imagination in prayer. Since no one has even seen God as He truly is, the Psalms use metaphors that are things we can picture. God is a rock, a fortress, a strong tower, a stronghold, a shield, and the list goes on. We can use these in our imagination as ways to approach God and enjoy Him.
  5. When the metaphors become personal, another huge step is taken. God is a shepherd, a counselor, a king, and a father. Then when Jesus came, a final step was taken. He was the perfect image of the Father, made visible to us so that we could approach Him with even more intimacy.
  6. Finally, I need to say that the imagination can be used in a way that harms us. Think about the worst-case scenarios you have imagined. Think about how you have pictured acting out anger or revenge. Evil can twist whatever is good. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can harness our imagination so that it both benefits us and builds up God’s kingdom.

But having said all of this, how exactly do we use our imagination to connect to God?  In the next blog, I will share some simple ways to start doing just that. In addition, I will also start posting some my own imaginative creations


2 Responses

  1. Love this! C. S. Lewis called our imagination the organ of meaning and contemplating his idea has enriched my walk with God over the years. Eager to read your next installment concerning this important reality!

    1. Terry, great to hear from you! I love the idea of the imagination being the organ of meaning. As you will see from the next post this coming week, it has certainly been that and more for me.

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