For the first ten years of my life, I was an only child, and during that time, my dad worked nights and my mom worked days, and I spent a lot of time alone. During that alone time, I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and created a lot of imaginary worlds. (I also set the house on fire twice, but let’s not talk about that right now.)
All that time spent imagining led me to be a fairly creative person, but it also led to an exaltation of my thoughts and desires above the real world. Any time things got too real, I’d go watch a movie or start daydreaming about the life I wished I had. And worst of all, any time God tried to intrude in my life, I’d use my imagination to pretend He wasn’t and rationalize how God didn’t exist.
When I came to Christ, I gave up everything that used my imagination: all the movies, books, writing, drawing, painting, everything that I worried might engage my pride or divert my eyes from God. But recently God has been telling me to reengage with those things for His glory, so I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how the imagination fits in our relationship with God.
Here are eight lessons I’ve learned about a Christian’s imagination:
First, our imaginations much like our actions naturally tend to stray away from God—“for the imagination of man’s heart [is] evil from his youth” Genesis 8:21
A lot of scripture refers to imagination in the negative context of our natural state, but scripture also extols us to control our imagination: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:5
When we bring our imagination into submission to God, He can use us to be creative for His glory just like Bezaleel: “See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,” Exodus 31:2-4
Also when we bring our imagination into submission to God, we gain a more appropriate view of reality because there is more to this world than what we can experience with our five senses: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Colossians 1:16
And what is faith but an appropriately used imagination followed by action? When we sit in a chair, we imagine it will hold our weight, so we sit. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
And what is hope except an exercise of imagination? And when we submit to God, we have a great hope: “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:7
And how can we ever hope to love others as ourselves if we couldn’t imagine ourselves in their place? “’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
And the final and perhaps most important thing to remember when we’re talking about submitting our imagination to God, is that He’s God. He has the greatest imagination there is, and He can do anything He imagines; He spoke the universe into existence after all. And He has imagined some amazing things for us: “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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 forever and ever!” Ephesians 3:19-20