"For as he thinks within himself, so he is..." Proverbs 23:7 (NASB).
It was a perfect 4th of July in
Boston. Around the corner from my daughter's apartment, a group of families gathered for a holiday cookout. The older generation controlled the music selections that afternoon and songs I grew up with and danced to drifted through the open windows
The Temptations' Eddie Kendricks' soothing falsetto, set to a sumptuous orchestral score drew me in. The melody is beautiful, but melancholic – a love song hinting of something amiss. A young man daily awaits his beloved's arrival. The sight of her fills his heart with joy and his mind with images of their future: marriage, children and a home.
Momentarily, life is wonderful, holds great meaning and promise. Every day, however, ends the same. His love goes unreturned. She never notices him and doesn't know he exists. The love affair is one dimensional, existing only in the eye of the beholder. Nightly he prays for one more chance to catch her attention before someone else captures her heart and she's gone forever. Soulfully he laments, “But it was just my imagination running away with me.”
Some of us have traveled this route. We too have loved, one-sided, from a distance. Imagination gave shape to our secret longing, at least for a short time. Usually those images were only that, pictures in an exhibition of what might have been.
In the beginning, man received dominion over everything on the earth, except other men. There is a nation that God entrusts to each individual. We're responsible for and exert complete autonomy over this realm. How well we govern it determines the outcome of our lives. So important, Jesus addressed this matter in Matthew 5:28. That nation is our imagination.
Imagination – we've been warned about it. Parents, teachers, friends, even enemies have extolled its dangers.
“Don't let your imagination run away with you.”
“It's all in your head!”
That last statement is only partially true. Science is discovering that our brains are more of a storage unit, a hard drive of sorts to store thoughts originated from the heart. The Temptations' song graphically depicts Jesus' teaching. Create a scenario, positive or negative, and it's as good as done. To the man in the song the relationship was real. Emotions fully invested, he rode the highs and lows associated with a couple in love; a price he willingly paid to live out his fantasy.
Imagination is a gift from God for our benefit. It has a higher purpose than fueling one-sided love affairs, criminal activity and other sorts of illegal, illicit or even silly behaviors. God operates in the dimension of “...exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think...” Eph 3:20 (KJV).
Imagination is the fertile soil where seeds of Heaven-sent thoughts and dreams take root and blossom. It acts as an incubator that allows God's creative ideas to grow up and surpass our natural, logical capabilities. Only when we're willing to push the limits and stretch will we ever come anywhere near the full extent of God's imagination. Is it better to overshoot and trust that He'll reel us back in before we go too far? I think so. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The Bible is full of stories and pictures that we can feed into our imaginations. These become stepping stones to deeper encounters with God when we give Him something to work with. Will He get upset if our interpretation of what we find in scripture isn't spot-on with Heaven's reality? I doubt it. Remember, He already told us that He operates on a much higher plane than what we're accustomed to. There's plenty of room to dream big. If I let my imagination run away with me, I may find myself in the sphere of “exceeding, abundantly.” That's a destination worth exploring.
How about you? Can your pursuit of God benefit from a serious upgrade? How can your imagination further enhance your relationship with Him? What scriptures will give you a place to start this new, exciting journey? How do you think God will keep you from getting off track when you venture into new, uncharted territory? How do you think He'll react if you try to imagine Him and the Heavenly realms?