The British nation, no. The Chinese nation, no. The Imagination yes!
I can remember clearly in the original movie Miracle on 34th Street when Santa, played by actor Edmund Gwenn, told little Susan "You've heard of the British nation, and the Chinese nation, but have you heard of the Imagination?". What a beautiful movie! Santa then lead little Susan into a whole imagination escapade of dreams, thoughts and using something we as adults forget we can also use. Like in the Polar Express, we cannot hear the bell ring anymore. There have been countless of movies depicting the loss of the imagination, the loss of innocence, and the dwindling of child-like confidence, humility and faith. But what does this mean to the Christian? In the book of Matthew (19:14), Jesus takes special account of the children that seem to be disturbing everyone else. He tells the disciples to let them come to Him and adds that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these or to those that are like children. In the same gospel (18:3-4), Jesus says that no one can enter Heaven unless he or she becomes like a child. Although Paul later talks about not thinking like a child and putting away childish things (I Corinthians 13:11), I believe Jesus is on a different playing field than Paul is in. I believe Paul is talking more about maturing mentally and maybe even allowing our attitude to mature when it comes to rules and restrictions, while Jesus speaks of children and for us to be like them spiritually and in faith. Jesus means we should have faith and awestruck love towards our Father, as a healthy child loves a loving earthly father. I know that many of us did not have that love shown to us by our fathers and that a picture of a loving Father is difficult to draw up in our minds and spirits. One thing all children do have though is an imagination. The imagination is something every child innately carries whether they are abused or loved. We would quickly play pretend with anything in sight. Whether we played with sticks and dirt or with Barbies and GI Joes, our imagination brought to us a world limited only by our minds. Our natural curiosity brought forth adventures on the moon, or in a wolf packed wilderness, or in the wild west. We fought trolls, bears, Ken's new girlfriend and even faced our own fears. Most of the time we were victorious and most of the time, bath time or sleep time came too soon. Like a ravenous thief, sleep became our enemy. Now it seems that sleep is more of my best friend! Unfortunately, sooner or later we utilized our imagination less and less. We may use it to plan an event or to decorate a room, but it isn't that release that it used to be or that bringer of joy. Like Walt Disney quotes "why do we have to grow up?".
With this, I want to bring up something different regarding the imagination. We can easily forget that the imagination is given to us by God. God intentionally gave us the capacity to use our minds to pretend and make things up. Unlike animals, we are created creative beings. Jesus tells us to be like children and one thing a child encompasses is the imagination. Incorporating the imagination while we pray or meditate can sound child like and frankly it is. When we pray for a sick loved one, next time try imagining them lying on their bed and then Jesus coming over and placing His hand on their head praying for him/her. When you pray invite Jesus to sit next to you and imagine Him doing so and praying with you. There is nothing wrong with this because you are utilizing something God gave you in the first place to worship and commune with Him.
As I have been practicing meditation this month I have learned to clear my mind of all my troubles and imagine something that reminds me of Jesus. With the problems in my life, the cross has been the image I have my mind paint. I pray and focus on Jesus suffering for me and showing me how much He loves me. I see his battered body and his silent tears. I see him crucified and from the cross He whispers how much He loves me and He comforts me from there. I then see the cross empty and blood soaked. I look at that empty cross and know that I have a Savior that not only died for me, but who also vanquished any darkness that has enveloped me. And that no matter what I am going through, my God is in control and loves me. All my troubles seem to melt away when I can see Jesus in my mind's eye go through the motions of the crucifixion. I will be alright. The empty cross I imagine is a beacon that comforts me through my turmoil. So many times I have imagined taking my problems off my back and giving them to Jesus. When I pray, I imagine Jesus helping take my "baggage" from me and then having Him deal with it. The weightlessness afterward is almost always tangible. I feel lighter and more free.
I am learning to use my imagination. It is a learning process. Sometimes people or certain scenes come to mind while I pray. Those people that come to my mind I immediately say a prayer for them and then let them know that I am praying for them. Nine times out ten, they needed the prayer and are grateful. Before we were given the go-ahead to leave to Kentucky, I remember meditating and a beautiful picture entered my mind. Before I knew it, I was swinging on the front porch swing at our Kentucky home feeling the warmth of the sun. Where had that image come from? I believe my Lord places that beautiful scene in my mind and that I would have missed it, had I not learned to sit still and use my imagination. It was at that moment that I new God would answer our prayers and we would leave for Kentucky. God utilized my imagination to speak and comfort me.
When I use my imagination in my spiritual life I feel closer to my Savior. I see Him smile at me and I experience resting my head on His chest. I don't just feel Him there, I SEE Him there in my mind. My relationship has grown deeper just because He isn't just some being out there that just spins the world in motion and could care less for us lesser beings. He's real. He's there. He's mine.
Using the word "imagination" might bring a levity that you may not want in a solemn and serious prayer life. But what is in our mind is something that man can never attain or take away. Like when the priest in The Count Of Monte Cristo offered Edmond knowledge in return for his help. Edmond naively says that the Priest offers freedom, but the Priest responds: "Freedom can be taken away. What I offer, cannot be taken away." In the United States we have seen slowly how our rights can be taken away. Our right to pray in school, to say "Merry Christmas", to life. All these rights and much more can be taken away. What better time to utilize what man cannot remove. Our right to know, our right to think, our right to imagine. Even if they say that in school I cannot "pray", they cannot enter my mind. I can pray continuously all day long and they wouldn't know! I can bring Jesus with me in my mind and they wouldn't know. They don't have to know. All that matters to Him is that I know.
I love living in the American nation. I love the United States and what it truly stands for, but in the Imagination is where I see my Savior.