Monday, March 19, 2012

The Practical Imagination

"Few people have the imagination for reality" 

Real life requires a little imagination. 

The German philosopher, Goethe, was not talking about living in la-la land--out of touch with reality, though I will admit that I indulge in this abomination of the imagination from time to time. Such indulgences go something like this:
I  walk into church, great worship music is playing and I begin to join in the singing. Suddenly, instead of having a mind focused on the true object of my worship, I am imagining that I am one of the singers upfront. My voice is like that of an angel, and all who listen are enraptured by its beauty! Record producers are coming in off the streets, anxiously awaiting the end of the service, when they can beg me to sign with their label. I begin to choose the color of the Porsche that I will buy with my fortune. Silver. Definitely silver....
Suddenly the words issuing from my mouth, "You alone are worthy of glory, You alone are worthy of my praise..." jolt me back to my senses. I realize that I spent my time of worship worshiping myself and my own vain glory. What a waste of imaginative energy!

But not all exercises of the imagination are so futile. There is, indeed, a very practical sort of imagination. It allows me to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt. It enables me to choose grace instead of judgement. It feeds hopefulness and strangles despair. I can use my imagination for good, and when I do, it goes something like this:
A man cuts me off in traffic, and while he speeds by I imagine that he just received the exciting news that his wife is having a baby and he is frantic to get to her. I pray for his safety, no matter his destination.When I arrive home I discover dirty dishes left in the sink. I imagine that the one who left the dishes fully intended to wash them, but got sidetracked by something more important (like a surprise presidential visit) or urgent (like a bleeding brother). I stick the dishes in the dishwasher, a wistful smile on my face. Finally, I notice a letter on the counter from our bank. I open it to discover that we are three thousand dollars overdrawn. Since David keeps impeccable balance sheets, I imagine that there has been some sort of comical error. I calmly call the bank to sort it out.
Believers have a slight advantage when it comes to imagination--after all, we have seen the impossible. I have seen my own wretched heart transformed by His love. I have seen my weary soul revived by His vision. I have seen my limited mind enlarged by His wisdom. After those sorts of miracles, imagination seems like, well, like child's play!

God gave us the ability to imagine, so I suppose He means for us to use it for good. What's more, He will not be out-done by our imaginations. In fact, the Bible tells us that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can imagine. Not just more, IMMEASURABLY more.

Few people have the imagination for reality, but those who do are better for it.

(This post is in response to a challenge on my niece's blog. Check it out if you have the time:

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