“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.
Everything I’ve done up to now has started with faith.
The faith of my parents when I was only a little girl, handing them a scribbled story.
The faith I’ve been taught God has in me as a soul of worth, as a creature who belongs to Him, and the endless love that accompanies that faith.
The faith of family and friends who have prayed for me and encouraged me both in life and in the growing of my creativity.
The faith of an agent and a publisher who were willing to take a chance on both me and my book.
And, of course, the faith of you, the readers.
Sure, a lot of people are willing to pay a few dollars for a book that catches their fancy. But fewer of them are willing to invest precious hours of their time to dive into its story, bond with its characters, and open themselves to be changed by its message. That takes an enormous amount of faith – one I hope I never disappoint.
So thanks to you, my readers and future readers and even you “maybe” readers and “just-passing-by” readers! And also to everyone who has ever offered encouragement and truth and wisdom.
Now my own faith comes back into play – faith that God will take The Word Changers and do whatever He wills with it, be it great or small.
“To have faith is to have wings.” – J.M. Barrie
LAST DAY TO ENTER GIVEAWAY!
Escapist. Nonsensical. Childish. Delusional.
Those are the words that come to mind when many people think of reading fairytales and fantasy. Far-off worlds full of mythical creatures and over-blown heroism. Dragons, swords, magic, fairies, and epic battles. What could be further removed from reality …. right?
For the longest time, when asked what I was reading, I would list off my most recent historical fiction or non-fiction read, and skip
right over the fantasies and fairy tale retellings that were my true favorites. What would people think if they knew a grown woman loved reading those types of books more than anything else?
But one day I decided to take a close, honest look at my hesitancy, and I found that this tactic stemmed not from what others thought of me, but from the misguided embarrassment that I myself felt. As an inward person, an analyzer, the question I asked myself next came very naturally:
Why do I love reading fantasy so much? And not only as an adult, but as a Christian?
I knew down deep the answer couldn’t really be what I feared it was – that my thoughts, emotions and tastes were childish. But if not, then what was the reason … the deeper reason?
Here are my conclusions:
Fairytales promote a desire for … other. Not a desire for fire-breathing dragons to terrorize your city block, or a desire for fantastical battles to happen on your front lawn, but a desire for “something beyond.” Children’s Christian fantasy writer and theologian C.S. Lewis argues that “this desire for something beyond does not empty the real world, but actually gives it new depths.”
Fantasy transforms our perception of reality. But what the best fantasy does, in my opinion, is to transform it into something truer, and more real, than it was to begin with. When I am immersed in a world of fairytale, its characters, its whimsy, its dangers and its heroes, I see each as a sort of echo from my own heart. An echo of the things I know to be good and pure and just and true and lovely from my own experience, from life itself, and even from God’s word.
Let’s imagine that you take a virtue such as bravery or love or forgiveness and wrap it in a shining fairy world. Go ahead – bury it deep within, mix its essence right into the story’s very structure and life. Now – give the story to someone whose heart has ignored that virtue, shelved it away in a dark, cobwebbed corner of her heart. She will plunge into the story, drawn in by its many facets and adventures. Then she will stumble, as if by accident, upon something – see something golden and true flit out of the corner of her eye.
And just like that, she’s found it – she’s found the hidden virtue, the truth beneath the illusion. And the finding of that one simple truth will be more amazing and delicious than if it been handed to her on a golden platter in broad daylight. When something is found in this way, and its unexpected whisper is heard through the pages of a story, the truth of it can resound stronger and further than a shout, or a sermon, or a real-world book with a supposed real-world message.
Fairytales and fantasy stories stand out in shocking relief from the dullness of life. The best and most thoughtfully told ones offer a new, bright way to discover something that our hearts have known all along. Maybe it’s a discovery of forgiveness, faith, or bravery. Maybe it’s seeing God in a brand new way.
I have often felt, when reading fantasy (Christian fantasy even more so) that the story holds a light. For many years I felt that light was shining into the stories, showing me their secrets. Now I know that the light comes from the words of the stories themselves, and it shines outward into me, if I allow it. A light that shows us new things is a wonderful thing. But a light that shows us the great things within ourselves that have been there, hiding in the dark, all along … now that’s a light I will go to some trouble to find.
Jesus Himself told fairytales of a sort; the Bible calls them parables. He knew that sometimes a direct message falls on deaf ears or sinks and disappears into a jaded heart. He knew that the truth laid out flat is not always the path to true understanding and wisdom. And He understood that a story, spun with imagination and deep meaning, can lead the lost home again.
I no longer worry when someone gives me an odd look after I confess to reading fairytales, or when I tell them I write fantasy. I just breathe a silent wish that they will one day see fairytales for what they truly are: not stories set apart from reality, but a way of taking life’s tired and faded truths and uncovering the vibrant colors hiding just beneath.
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