I say no to letting my precious gift of a life slip by while I drown in an electronic, anti-social, busy world.
I say no to not making decisions, or letting others make them for me, thus making the worst decision of all.
I say no to ignoring the friends who are near and needing me.
I say no to fearing freedom and clinging to slavery like a coward.
I say no to complaining and bickering about the dirt I tread on, when God has given me gems enough to light the world.
I say no to listening to Satan’s lies, which keep me from spreading God’s love more fully.
I say no to being offended for my own sake, because in the end that’s only selfishness anyway.
I say no to the laziness and indecision that keep me from coming fully alive and awake, as I was meant to be.
I say no to the mentality that big moments are what we live for, when the small ones are the rich fabric my life has been made of thus far.
I say no to seeing only with my eyes, when God has given my heart the ability to see His Kingdom all around me every day.
I say no to waiting for someone to show love and attention to me before I give it in return.
I say no to demanding fairness for myself in relationships and in life.
I say no to walking timidly and with fear, when God has given me the wonderful, beautiful heart of a lion.
And I say yes … yes to God alone, and the joy and the life and the purpose He has for me.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)
It’s a term you can’t avoid hearing in our culture: self-esteem. Think better of yourself. You deserve the best. Be confident in your abilities. If you believe you can do it, you can.
For years I bought into it, too. Finding myself. Finding my worth. Loving myself despite my faults and the “ugly” things about me, inside and out.
That’s what the world tells us to do, right?
But then God nudged me awake. And instead of slapping me on the face with the horrible truth as He could have done, He gently and gradually showed me the lie I was holding so dear. You see, the problem with self-esteem, and even self-confidence, is that, well, it’s all about … you guessed it…
As a Christian who was searching genuinely for the heart of God, truly wishing to make His desires my own, I couldn’t help but see it.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
What place does self-confidence have if we are to become weaker, so that God is able to become stronger within us? Shouldn’t it rather be called God-confidence?
What place does self-esteem have for someone who delights in weaknesses and insults? Wouldn’t it better be named God-esteem?
The world takes admirable virtues such as esteem and confidence and even love, and turns them inside out, makes them things of selfishness, small and warped, casting shadows into our souls. We let the world feed us these lies because we so ache to believe them.
But then, the best and most believable lies are always laced with a bit of truth, aren’t they? Because, in fact, we are of worth, we do deserve love and esteem. … But not in and of ourselves. Not because of anything we’ve done or ever will do or ever can do.
No, we deserve these things solely because of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ blood. God’s grace and overwhelming mercy.
Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known have had no great physical beauty. God’s spirit filled them so completely that they shone with it. Their kindness was a glittering mantle. Their humility was a peaceful balm. The love that came from their eyes dazzled those around them with the undeniable awareness of God’s goodness.
When I think of it that way, my physical attributes seem so remote. My self-esteem and my self-worth fade to insignificance.
I won’t deceive you, it’s hard to do. But don’t ever think that it’s impossible, because it’s not. Just like any journey of the feet, a journey of the heart takes time. It’s painful and wearying … but oh so worth it in the end. Because it leads us closer to God, closer to who He intends us to become.
Self-esteem? I have no use for it. Not in the way the world wants me to, anyway. With my eyes firmly on God’s plan for me, with my desire for His will alone, my self slips into the place it was created to be…
“The soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
I suppose there are people who believe imagination isn’t essential. People who think the visible realm is the important one, facts are what matter, not theories or dreams.
I’m not among those people.
I believe imagination is important. I’d even go so far as to say imagination is vital to our well-being as humans and as Christians.
Imagination helps us empathize with others.
Romans 12:15 tell us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Then of course there’s the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12: “treat people how you want them to treat you.” Have you ever considered how difficult this would be if you had no imagination? How can we weep with the brokenhearted if our hearts don’t break a little with them? How can we truly rejoice with the joyful if we don’t feel some of their happiness as if it were our own?
Imagination is the bridge that takes us from the world we live in, the world that has “me” at center, to the world of others’ hopes and tears and joys. It broadens our feelings, our views and our ideas. It forces us to treat others not as something separate, but as a part of ourselves. Which is exactly as God intended, isn’t it?
Imagination helps us picture the future, and prepare for it.
Pretty straightforward, right? You have to imagine what your future will be like, sometimes tomorrow or next week, sometimes in a year or ten years. It doesn’t matter if you’re grocery shopping for the week, or budgeting for the month, or planning a marriage, or raising a child … you have to picture the future in order to make smart choices now. Say what you will, that takes imagination.
Imagination helps us know God better.
Imagination is at the heart of God, really. As the Creator of the universe, imagination was crucial to Him. His very nature is a creative one. And when we feel His nature speak through us in the form of our imaginations, we know Him better. Yes, our attempts at creating things are pathetic and second-rate compared to His. But they bring us closer to Him, still; they forge a strong link between ours hearts and His. We are like children emulating our Dad, and finding joy in it. When I create things I understand my own inadequacy, but in the light of my Father’s greatness, that doesn’t seem to matter … I just find joy in the act of creating, and in my creations, however flawed. Like He does.
Imagination gives us hope.
Try for a second to stop thinking about what will happen to you in a minute – an hour – a day – a week – a year – a lifetime. The dreams you have always had? Nowhere to be seen. The hope you have for a husband and family of your own? Gone. Becoming a stronger Christian tomorrow than you were yesterday? Don’t even think about it. In fact, you can’t think about it … because you have no imagination … remember?
What a dismal picture.
My efforts for myself and my family and my son and my career would flag and die if I couldn’t conjure an image of a hopeful future. Why discipline or love my son if I can’t picture his future as a man after God’s own heart? Why live a life for God at all if I can’t imagine the hope of heaven, if I can’t picture being there myself?
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7
Imagination makes us stronger Christians.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not certain I’d be a Christian if I didn’t have an imagination. It always seemed to me that you could take every fact in the world to prove something – Christianity included – but in the end it still comes down to a matter of leaping. A matter of faith.
Yes, the facts are lined up for me. Yes, the evidence of God’s works are before me. His Word is written on the pages beneath my fingers. … But perhaps my heart is wary still. What will such a leap mean for me? When I believe, what will be required of me? I imagine looking into the face of God, for that’s what such a leap will mean, surely … I can imagine being in His presence, accepting Him not as a fact, but as all-consuming, beyond facts, Alpha and Omega, Creator of the world and of my soul.
So the leap must be made. And to make it, imagination is vital. And what do I imagine? Arms that hold me, a voice that whispers truths unseen. I see God’s face in my imagination. And not only do I have to believe He is God … I want to believe.
Some of the most important things in life have a basis in imagination. Foresight. Hope. Wisdom. Faith. Even love. Can you picture life without even one of these things? No? Then you are like the rest of us. You are like me. You have an imagination. Personally, I think it’s one of God’s greatest gifts.
Books can be bliss. Books can be a wonderful escape. Books can be deadly dangerous.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m addicted to books. I know of many people who are afflicted by this madness as well. It’s not really curable, and I’ve never been quite clear on whether that’s because it’s impossible, or just the fact that people simply don’t want to be cured of it.
Books have blessed me with countless hours of laughter, happiness, heart-thumping excitement and soul-wrenching sorrow. They have given me what I consider to be some of the richest times of enjoyment in my life.
So why are they so dangerous?
For someone like me who is immersed in books, it is easy to lose your way. The characters within them can become more real than the people in your life. The adventures in them can make your own life dull in comparison. The satisfaction of happy endings can distort your real-life expectations.
Don’t get me wrong. Books offer us much. New worlds, ideas, emotions and thoughts. The epic romance, the love at first sight, the evil that is always punished, the bad guy who is always caught, the ending that is always happy. I don’t blame you for wanting that. I want that. And it’s not something we’ll find very often, if at all, outside the covers of a book.
And this is where the danger lies.
Books teach us to expect these things. Books teach us not to settle, not to give in, until we have found these things. They promise that things like true love and happy endings are always attainable, if we could only find the right person, if we were only in the right circumstance, if we were only …. If only …. If ….
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
If I get annoyed with my husband because he doesn’t give me the deep and mysterious affection that Mr. Rochester gave Jane Eyre, or because he doesn’t change for me as Mr. Darcy did for Elizabeth, that’s no one’s fault but my own. It’s wrong for me to have those thoughts, the thoughts that books put into my head, the ones that I allow to control my expectations of real-life people.
Admit it, it’s a little bit funny, isn’t it? To know that a book can change the invisible pathways of my mind? To know that I want my husband to be just a bit more like Mr. Rochester? To admit that my life frustrates me and makes me want to cry like a child who hasn’t got her way when things don’t go right?
I think Satan must think it’s funny, too, watching as I’m separated from God’s plan for me. Watching as I grow bitter with life and friends and the people I’m supposed to be showing God’s love, all because I want someone to sweep me off my feet, or because my life is not the adventure I’d like it to be, or because I must watch as someone I’m close to suffers an ending that is anything but happy.
Books. Are they right or wrong to teach us these things? Right or wrong to make us long for … more?
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Books. Dangerous or not? Do they lead us to neglect the springs of life from our own hearts, and make us instead focus our eyes on the imaginary, the unattainable?
Books, when all is said and done, don’t control your mind. Media doesn’t control you mind. Your mother, your father, your spouse, your friends—they don’t control it either. Only you, and only God. And even God will not force His way in unless you invite Him. So it’s your choice, then. Just as God intended.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Trust in the Lord … that’s the key, isn’t it? Keep your eyes on Him. Read books, enjoy books, love books … but keep your eyes on God and His Kingdom.
This world isn’t likely to offer you the epic romances you read about. It’s certainly not going to solve every crime and punish every criminal. And ask anyone … happily-ever-afters are but a myth.
We live in a world of sin and darkness.
But God is not vanquished by sin, and His light is not to be put out. What we look for in books and fail to find in real life—we may find in Him.
God gives us the fullest, most all-consuming love. He pursues us with relentless passion and gentle steadfastness. Isn’t that just what any true romantic longs for in the end?
God is the ultimate judge. Bad guys go free on earth too many times. But don’t believe for a moment that means their sins will go unpunished.
God is the creator of mystery, and therefore the solver of it. We should revel in His creation, even the mysteries of it, and look forward to one day having Him explain them to us.
Lastly, God is the maker of happy endings. Some of them do happen here on earth—some of them even rival the best books we’ve ever read. But nothing compares to the Final Happy Ending that we as Christians have to look forward to. Not a single book on earth can hold a candle to that.
All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before. (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
This world is not our home. It is not where we belong. Books tell us of other worlds—let us not forget the one we are in, nor the one we are going to. Books give us happiness—let us not forget where our eternal happiness lies. Books tell us of adventures and heroes—let us not forget that the life God gave us is the greatest adventure of all, and that the only hero we need is our Savior, the maker of the truest Happy Ending.
- There are very few mythical creatures considered to be “good” in all different stories, cultures/traditions. But the unicorn is one of them.
- The unicorn itself represents many things in different stories. Most commonly, the unicorn is a symbol of purity and virtue.
- In the Middle Ages, the unicorn became a religious symbol, especially in art. A beautiful woman (who represented the Virgin Mary) captured a unicorn, and when it was tame it laid its head in her lap. Through the years, this story grew. The unicorn began to represent Christ, the death of a unicorn was likened to the Passion of Christ.
- A group of unicorns together is called a “blessing” of unicorns.
- A unicorn’s single horn can be meant to represent many different things. Among them: heraldry, unity, the cycles of time, endlessness, and the sword.
- Unicorns’ horns are said to be magic. They are harder than diamonds, and have the ability to neutralize poisons.
- If you are fortunate enough to see a unicorn, you may be granted a wish.
- The tears of a unicorn have the ability to heal both physical ailments and sorrows of the heart.
- In the early 1600s, the Dutch theologian, Petrus Plancius, included the unicorn constellation, “monoceros,” on his celestial globe.
- Unicorns in real life? Alexander the Great claimed to have rode a unicorn into battle, the famous explorer Marco Polo claimed to have encountered a unicorn (although his description fits that of a rhinoceros rather closely …), Julius Caesar said he saw a unicorn in a forest in Germany, a unicorn “appeared” to Confucius’ mother, foretelling his birth, and later “appeared” to Confucius himself, foretelling his own death.
- Unicorns are said to be able to tell the truth from lies. When confronted with a liar, the unicorn will pierce the liar through the heart with its horn.
- For many years, unicorn horns were sold for their medicinal properties, although most of these turned out to be the horns of goats, cows, or even narwhals.
- Queen Elizabeth I is said to have owned a unicorn horn. And the throne of Denmark was supposed to have been made from unicorn horns.
- Legend says that Noah would not allow unicorns onto the ark, and that is why they are extinct today.
- There are quite a few references to unicorns in the King James version of the Bible, although more modern versions translate “unicorn” into “bull” or “oryx.” (Numbers 23:22, Job 39:9, Psalm 22:21, Isaiah 34:7, among others).
Being a reader and writer of Christian allegory, I can’t help but imagine some of the ways unicorns could be used symbolically in stories. Can you? I may have to keep that in mind for my next book …
What’s your favorite mythical creature? Does it lend itself to a deeper meaning in a story you might like to read or write?