As I belong to part of the generation that was raised by Mr. Rogers, I have been taught the importance of using my imagination. I was shown that is it can take me to a wonderful realm of small trains and creepy hand puppets. And for some reason, I always remember the episode that showed me how crayons were made.
Recently, the concept of imagination is something that has intrigued me again. Perhaps it is because it is not as socially acceptable at this age to use it, or talk about using it. We are all encouraged from an early age to use our imaginations. It is talked about it a good way. It is good, healthy, and right to use your imagination (even if it means you have an imaginary friend named Frank).
But could the use of your imagination ever be bad? Could it ever be really unhealthy?
W. P. Young in his book, The Shack, uses a conversation between Jesus and the main character to say something incredibly profound about imagination:
“Exactly,” Jesus interrupted, “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel task master.” (emphasis mine)
Without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster.
Think about it this way: how much time do we spend thinking about the future? Many of us can plan out what we imagine will happen to us. We can trace different trajectories, see different outcomes. And for many of us, this develops stress and anxiety and worry. For others, it can be truly paralyzing, keeping us from engaging in the world around us because we are so afraid.
But in our imaginings, where is God? Do we imagine that He will provide for us like He has already? Do we try to think of creative ways in which He may work in us and around us and through us? Do we really think he knows better than we do?
If we are honest, we don’t include God in our imagination; because it is our imagination. It is our way to say we trust God when we really trust ourselves. It is our way of nominally confessing our dependence on him while leaning on our own understandings. Because, if we’re honest (and I am being honest here about myself) we think we know best and we are scared of what could come our way, especially if it means being out of control.
Proverbs 26:12-13 says it this way:
“Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for them.
A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road,
a fierce lion roaming the streets!””
Really? A lion roaming the streets? That is quite an imagination! But we do this all the time.
Now, imagine if we took that creative impulse and channeled it with these truths in mind:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph 3:21-22)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
So, yes. “Grow ideas in the garden of your mind.” But don’t worry about pests, crop production, weather patterns, or whether they are growing fast enough. Trust that if you plant them, God will grow them exactly how they need to grow. Those are all things you could never control, not even in your wildest imagination…