Just My Imagination

Sunday night as I was gathering with friends, their two-year-old son was arranging and rearranging coasters on the coffee table.

“Mickey Mouse,” he said.
Were I talking to him on the phone, I would never have understood. But when I looked down, sure enough, the coasters looked like Walt’s favorite rodent, plain as day.
“Good job, buddy,” I told him. “Way to use your imagination.”
And I marveled. Imagination at age two! Huh?
The greater miracle, though, is when at age 40, I still use my imagination. Kids have no problem seeing a box and thinking car or the arm of the couch and thinking horse.
Me? I see a box and think recycle bin. The arm of the couch – don’t sit on that or it will break.
::
When I was a child, there was nothing I couldn’t do with a little imagination. I played school with imaginary students; I set up an imaginary news set on my parents’ balcony and played weather girl for days. Cubby holes became caves or houses or stores or whatever I needed to fulfill the lusts of my innocent imagination.
Though I can’t prove it, I suspect my imagination became more, not less, active when I learned to read. Words added texture and depth to an imagination that was limited only by what I could invent. And dreams – they were the practice field where my mind could try on shapes and colors. Without even thinking, I could draw pictures or write stories of places I had never been, people I had never met.
But somewhere along the way, my imagination stopped working so well. I dreamed of being a journalist instead of a novelist, and I exchanged sketch pencils for a camera.
I’m sure there is evidence that my shrinking imagination was due in part to my growing older. But I have no doubt that it was also a result of my growing faith. The Bible, after all, is not a book of fairy stories, I was taught. The Bible is a book of truth.
As if the two couldn’t possibly be connected.
::
Funny thing about imaginations: if you don’t use them for good, they are surrendered to the dark side.
At work, when faced with a problem, I can’t come up with one creative solution. But my imagination works overtime thinking up every possible way the problem can only get worse. When worry sets in, worst possible scenarios play like horror movies in my mind with little effort. Conflict in relationships is played out in exaggerated arguments and brawls in my nightmares. Scenes from movies I had no business watching are recast and expanded upon in day dreams, leaving me victimized or terrorized.
Am I sinning, there in my mind, letting my imagination get the best of me? Or is the real sin a failure of imagination? Letting darkness inform my creativity rather than light, being carried away by my thoughts rather than letting the Spirit carry me away?

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15

::

In my very best moments, I am lying in bed, it’s morning, and I have been praying. I’m not speaking in sentences to the Lord anymore; I’m praying in pictures and poetry and possibilities. My mind is telling Jesus what my heart feels through a redeemed imagination.
That’s me in my very best moments – creative, spiritual, whole.

TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

Today, I am writing about creativity and imagination along with others from theHighCalling.org. We are reading and writing together from Breath for the Bones – Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith, by Luci Shaw. Visit theHighCalling.org today to see what others are saying about chapters 5 and 6 of the book. Then, pick up a copy for yourself and read/write along with us. Next week we will cover chapters 7 and 8.

::

Below are song lyrics I wrote several years ago, wrestling with this idea of imagination and faith – where one ends and the other begins. The accompanying music is even more simplistic than the poetry, but maybe that’s part of the mystery of spiritual creativity.

Childlike Faith

I read a story ‘bout a girl down a hole
And a bedknob full of magic and a grouchy old troll
I knew it wasn’t real, but I didn’t know what was
So when I made up stories they were full of that stuff.
The colors, the sounds, and the wonderful smells
That were all a part of my childhood
Were not from the world that my parents could see
They were my own creative reality.
When we’re five there’s no doubt there’s a realm of this life
That’s beyond what we see but we still want to try
A man dressed in red bringing gifts to our house
Was easier to believe than that milk came from cows.
Angels and fairies and dragons and wizards
Were as real in my life at the ’78 blizzard
But as I kept progressing and maturing in thought
I gave up pretending as a big girl ought.
You tell me ‘bout a God in a spiritual realm
You ask me to believe and come out on your limb
But how can I trust in the things I can’t see
That’s not the way a big girl succeeds.
CHORUS
Childlike faith, a childlike faith
You must believe with a childlike faith
To enter the kingdom you must be like these
Awaken that childlike faith
Photo by akshay moon, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • reply Sandra Heska King ,

    . . . praying in pictures and poetry and possibilities.

    Oh, how I love that!

    And I want to shake that childlike faith–and imagination–awake!

    • reply Charity Singleton ,

      Ann – Let’s talk more about imagination tomorrow. Those kids of yours have it in spades, that’s for sure!

      • reply Charity Singleton ,

        Sheila – I think this is an exercise I need to try. Maybe this will make our imagination muscles stronger like I was talking about with Jennifer above.

        • reply Charity Singleton ,

          Kelly – I’d like to meet that daughter of yours! I love the stories you tell about her on Facebook!

          • reply Charity Singleton ,

            Glynn – I think I have taken some interpretive liberties with the idea of childlike faith, but I have to think that children come to Jesus in all kinds of ways that are different than we adults do.

            • reply Charity Singleton ,

              Jennifer – I like thinking of our imaginations as a muscle, and that they get stronger with use. Let’s keep using them, pushing them, so that we have giant imagination muscles! Imagine what that could do for the Kingdom!

              • reply Charity Singleton ,

                Megan – The picture prayers only happen when I give myself space. When I’m busy and stressed out and worried, sometimes I barely even pray words.

                • reply Charity Singleton ,

                  Laura — “Songwriter” might be putting a little strongly. I’ve written a handful of songs, and they all have guitar chords, at least. But since I’m really not much of a performer either, they mostly just sit locked in the closet!

                  • reply Charity Singleton ,

                    Nancy — I don’t know if all moms would necessarily appreciate my imagination commentary! Though, I suspect it’s truer than I realize!

                    • reply Ann Kroeker ,

                      Love this, as you might imagine (pun intended).

                      I couldn’t get a creativity post up in time, so it’s fun to ponder yours, instead.

                      • reply Sheila ,

                        Sometimes for exercise I ask myself to imagine the best outcome possible of some given situation…at home, at work, anywhere.

                        It’s a lot harder than coming up with the worst-case scenario. Stretches me until it hurts, sometimes.

                        Thanks, Charity.

                        • reply Kelly Sauer ,

                          I am glad Glynn tweeted you – this was a good one. Your song is sweet.

                          And my 4yo daughter? She can find Mickey in the clouds. Kid imagines all day. I hope she never loses that.

                          • reply Glynn ,

                            A childlike faith opens up an entire world of possibility and imagaintion. Good post, Charity.

                            • reply Jennifer @ GettingDownWithJesus.com ,

                              Sheesh, Charity. A songwriter, too? I’m with Laura. I’d like to hear the melody … and YOU singing it! 🙂

                              I like what you say about the greater miracle: imagination at age 40. I feel like I have to *try* to use it. And if I don’t? Well, let’s just say it’s a muscle that gets VERY flabby from underuse.

                              • reply Megan Willome ,

                                If you’re praying in poetry and pictures, then you’re gonna be just fine.

                                Failure of imagination–sin, indeed.

                                • reply Laura ,

                                  Charity! I didn’t know you were a songwriter! Do you have the melody? Because we SO need to hear this song sung when we get to Texas! Is there a songwriting workshop? Hmmm. Wheels turning…

                                  I love what you say over at THC about calling us back to our childhood. Yes, that resonated with my spirit. And, like Nancy, I’m still thinking about that line about the dark side! Luci says imagination is a widening of our faith. Love thinking of it that way.

                                  I’m so glad you are walking through this book with me, Charity. I so enjoy my visits here :).

                                  • reply Nancy ,

                                    I am just wild about this line: “Funny thing about imaginations: if you don’t use them for good, they are surrendered to the dark side.” The next time I’m asked to prepare a devotional for a new mom, I am definitely including that line–crediting you, of course!

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