Fifteen minutes had passed since three-year old Elena had been tucked in for her afternoon nap, but she was still conversing with her buddies—the half-dozen or so stuffed animals she sleeps with.
I left my book to go settle her down.
“Elena, it’s time to be quiet and rest,” I reminded while re-tucking the blankets around her. “You can talk to your buddies when you wake up.”
“But I can’t rest,” she replied, her wide, innocent eyes locked with mine. “They keep talking and talking so I can’t go to sleep.”
Don’t you love the vivid imaginations of young children?
Why does that ability diminish over time? What happens to that creative nook of the mind as we grow older?
In reality, the ability to imagine has its purpose even into adulthood, and into the serious realm of faith. According to theologian and author, Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1976):
“Faith is imagination grown up.”
M-m-m. He makes an astute observation. Faith is greatly enhanced by engaging the imagination. For example:
We can use our imaginations to better understand God.
The Bible includes a variety of metaphors that help us know him. As we apply our imaginations, what might we see?
- God, our Shepherd (Isaiah 40:10), rubbing his hand lovingly over the heads of his sheep one by one, or resting his cheek against the neck of a lamb while cradling her in his arms. How caring and affectionate he is.
- God, our Father (Psalm 103:13-14), with attentive ears and tender eyes upon a child who’s pouring out her heart of pain. Note the furrow in his brow because one of his precious children is hurting. How compassionate he is.
- God, our Shield (Psalm 3:3)—strong in body, alert in mind, passionate in spirit, never distracted, never weary, and always attentive. How determined he is to protect us.
We can use our imaginations to add insight to Bible reading.
For example, imagine you are the innkeeper in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-36). The kind traveler explains the situation and announces he will personally care for the injured Jewish man. Surely you respond with a slight jerk of surprise. That’s just not done! you think. Too much bad blood between Jews and Samaritans. Why does he care so much?
(The Good Samaritan by Rembrandt)
As we imagine such details, we discover more insight: The demonstration of sacrificial love like the Good Samaritan may compel observers to ask important questions.
We can use our imaginations to see more in the natural world.
The great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, used his imagination to see scripture themes in nature.
- Butterflies provided images of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.
- Spider webs illustrated the devious ways of Satan to entrap us.
- Sunrises demonstrated the brilliance of God’s grace.
With a bit of effort we could add to Edwards’ list:
- The unending treasures of God’s creation speak of his eternal glory
- A light summer breeze brings to mind the wind of the Spirit–gentle and grace-filled–wafting from person to person through a kind word, a small favor, a listening ear.
- When leaves sway back and forth like church bells, the trees are clapping their hands (Isaiah 55:12). I’ll bet God hears their praise too.
I’m thinking, faith is not only enhanced by the imagination; faith requires the imagination in order to accept a spiritual dimension beyond our five senses, an invisible but all-powerful God who exists as Spirit, and his Son who resides in us and with us (2 Corinthians 13:5; Matthew 28:20).
Oh say, can you see?
How has your imagination impacted your faith? Please share your experience in the comment section below!
(Art & photo credits: www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailylifeverse.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.freestockphotos.biz.; http://www.pinterest.com.)