Can You Imagine...Again?
I was alone on a summer afternoon. The only sound was the birds calling to each other or an occasional car going up or down our somewhat rural road. My world was quiet, and I had spent the last half hour on my knees “playing” in my garden...weeding, moving a plant or two and cutting off dead blossoms or leaves. Total tranquility and joy.
When I finished, I slowly stood up and as I stood, I felt a light tapping on my right shoulder.
Fear filled my head and stomach as I stood frozen to the ground while my mind imagined the worst...someone was standing behind me and whatever happens next, no one will know because I am alone, and I know that I cannot run fast because my legs are jelly with fear, and I don’t know any karate moves and this is it, this is how my life ends...
I waited for ever...maybe 30 seconds in real time...and there were no sounds but the pounding of my heart in my ears. I slowly turned around to face my fate and as I did…the long, wooden, garden rake gently dropped to the ground behind me.
I had accidentally stepped on the hard metal tines of the rake which forced it to go upright behind me, stopping lightly on my shoulder.
From grief (fear) to relief (no kidnapper) to disbelief (why did I immediately picture a kidnapper?).
I had to sit and let my heart go back down out of my throat.
Later, when I told my husband about my horrific experience his response was, “Let me get this straight. You thought someone was going to kidnap you, but they politely approached you with a light tap on your shoulder, first?”
Yes. Yes. That’s what I thought. Because my imagination took over and I could only picture the worst.
Why did God give each of us the potential to picture things, places or scenarios in our minds? I remember using my imagination as a child and it was good...I imagined being or doing or going or seeing...all heroic or wonderful things. Rescuing someone from potential harm. Being productive in work or in a talent. Seeing the world. Maybe even getting a trophy or at least a healthy round of applause.
Imaginations can drive us in good ways too.
As an adult, like many adults, my God-given imagination is now often used in imagining fearful things as in my garden episode, not as in childlike dreaming. But Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to children...their childlike qualities include trust, curiosity and imaginations. Philippians 4:8 comes naturally to children, whatever is noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable...excellent or praiseworthy...think on these things.
Several summers ago, I listened and re-listened to Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. It expanded my imaginative thinking. Now, I imagine Heaven beginning with the God-given experiences we have on this Earth. And it’s not all about me, but rather using my senses to praise and worship Him in awe and wonder as children do when they trust, discover and use their imaginations. For children, this usually takes place in play by exploring, discovering, listening, observing, and even taking on new roles.
Whether we “play” with colors, get involved in a sport, try painting, exploring or even in meeting people of other cultures, we are satisfying our curiosity and imagination in childlike ways that expand our understanding of God’s creativity. The fragrance of cherry blossoms, the sweet sound of a repeated bird call or the beauty of a red, yellow and orange sunrise are “whispers” of Heaven. Laughing hard with a friend, seeing life on an IMAX screen or even “experiencing” the disciples walk with Jesus in a Bible passage...these are all God-given avenues for us to imagine our good God.
These earthly experiences are a “sampling of” a “taste of Heaven” as Randy Alcorn explained. If I can laugh that hard with a friend on Earth, what will laughter sound like in Heaven? Or if holding a child’s hand brings an unspeakable joy today, what will it feel like to hold the hand of God or a loved one in all eternity? If we dream of winning at a sport and work hard toward that goal, think, why would God give us those desires if they are not a taste of Heaven?
But, I don’t believe our imaginations are for eternity, alone. I believe that God wants us to imagine in our prayers, as well.
“…I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” - Proverbs 8:30-31
This kind of God-focused living takes imagination in our prayers before we begin each day…allowing the mind to imagine what noble, right, pure, or lovely thing could take place today in God... and then look for ways to play around with those thoughts that God has given to us.
What if we imagined ourselves sharing God with another person in words or in actions? That prayer might be: Father, will you lead me to someone who needs to know Your Love today? Help me to imagine myself sharing your love in a lovely way with someone.
What if we imagine seeing God in a new way amid a trial, sickness or mourning? That prayer might be: Father, will you show me insight to see you in a powerful way? I am hurting, but you are a Creative God...help me see what noble possibilities you see in this trial.
What if we imagine doing something we have never done before? That prayer might be: Creative Father, will you give me the opportunity and the pure drive to do something new...help me to remember what I used to imagine doing...and then give me a fresh perspective.
What if instead of doing the same things today, we ask God to teach us to see our routine in a fresh new way? That prayer might be: Good Father, teach me to see my world through your eyes today so that I might appreciate all that I have in a fresh new way. Help me to imagine my life lived in an admirable way that points to your grace.
And, what if we find we don’t know how to praise God, how to break a bad habit or how to start a new way of life in Jesus because we cannot imagine life being any other way? That prayer might be: Holy Father, give me the “want to” that will lead me to want to imagine good things, to want to start living for you. How can I picture living my life boldly for you?
Our imaginations are there for a reason and the reason is for His glory temporarily here on Earth but forever in eternity through the saving love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Kay has served as Director of Women's Ministry first as a volunteer and then on Staff since 2006.
Her joy in ministry is in hearing women talk about their spiritual growth or newfound faith in Jesus, whether through a weekend message, Life Group experience, women's Bible study, special event, a mentoring relationship or at a women's retreat.
She and her husband Matt, their two sons, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren live in Butler.