The Gift of Imagination


Imagination is one of the most precious and powerful gifts we have received from our Creator. It is, tragically, also one of the most neglected. We have an abundance of it in childhood- I have played for hours as a Sarge to my plastic platoon of G.I. Joe Soldiers. Little girls invite all sorts of imaginary guests to their tea parties. Many of us guys have thrown the winning touchdown pass in a stadium filled with thousands of admirers, when in reality we were all by ourselves throwing a rolled-up sock into a trash can in our bedroom!

So how did our imaginations get so rusty, so overlooked? Did we outgrow our need for them? What is the deal?

First, let’s examine the difference between the western (Greek) mindset and the eastern (Hebrew).

In the eastern mindset, spirituality co-existed with the material realm. To the Hebrew, heaven, for example, was not a far-away, up-in-the-sky, unattainable place- it was as near as the nose on the face, yet invisible. When the writer of the gospel said that someone heard a voice from heaven, it was not from the sky, but from a nearby place, the immediate surroundings- as the spiritual realm became known in the physical.

To the Greeks, (however valuable their contributions to art, science, philosophy, language, etc.) the spiritual was separate from the physical.  Empiricism (that which can known by the natural senses) reigned over the metaphysical.

We in the western church claim to be living according to the spirit of the scriptures but we are so influenced by the Greek method of learning that we have become very empirical; indeed, we are suspicious of those who purport to be in touch with a reality that transcends the natural. That some who claim to be “Holy Spirit-led” stray from a commitment to what God has revealed of Himself in His Word doesn’t negate the clear privilege we have to be a supernatural people. Just because a gift is abused doesn’t rule out the value of the original intent of the gift.

To be prophetic means to speak as God speaks, hear and see as God does. Of course, we cannot be prophetic without His divine enablement; and we cannot be prophetic without using our imaginations!

Why do we limit the way God speaks to us? I have found that if my spiritual eyes and ears are open, I can hear and see the things of the spirit in all kinds of ways- if I use my imagination! I can “see” the myriads standing on the sea of glass before the throne of God as songs of praise and holy fire resound from a billion lips and voices. In the natural, though, there may only be 50 or 60 of us in a store front church building. Spiritual reality transcends the natural. The Word of God teaches us that we are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!

The days of Radio (though before my time) were indeed a golden age. Families would finish their supper and chores and gather around the radio to hear the stories of “The Shadow” and “The Lone Ranger”. With imagination employed, the whole family could also “see” Silver (the Lone Ranger’s horse) as he rose up on his hind legs and whinnied triumphantly.  Through the music they could “see” the crook sneaking up on the hero and “see” the hero stop the train just in time. (or untie the damsel in distress!)

“Oh John”!

“Just doin’ mah job, little lady”!

Nowadays, music videos inject their own meaning and depiction into the song. We watch movies (and I love them!) and don’t read. We have preachers who use power point and multimedia to “save” us from having to use our imaginations.

No wonder we are anemic in the imagination department!

We have also demonized imagination in the name of protecting ourselves from humanistic new-agers that insist that man is his own god. Again, just because some abuse a gift doesn’t negate the intrinsic value of that gift. Just because we can create images with our minds doesn’t mean that we worship those images.

Jesus said,”Except you be converted and become as a little child you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” I think, among other things, the Lord was reminding us to not outgrow the gift of imagination.

That’s one reason I love the “FingerPaintings” piano series. It is music that feeds and strengthens our imaginations.  I’ve had children (of all ages) tell me of wonderful pictures the music has inspired in their imaginations.

Childlike and Maturing,

David Baroni