February 10, 2016

A controlled imagination

Most television shows cannot hold my interest. If I’m doing something else at the same time, I can watch, but even then my mind wanders. My imagination takes me elsewhere.

However, we have what seems a new channel; at least new to me. The programs are about nature, both flora and fauna, without commercials except to advertise upcoming shows. Ignoring the few speculative parts about how these things came to be, I am totally captivated with the beauty and the intricacies of God’s creation.

This morning, I asked God to speak to me about my imagination and how better to use it. I had not yet looked at today’s devotional reading and was startled at the title: “Is your imagination of God starved?”

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:25–26)

Chambers points out that the people of God in Isaiah’s day starved their imagination by looking on the face of idols. We do that today too because the human heart is “an idol-making factory.” Instead of focusing on God, many people tend to exalt all sorts of other entities. Even Christians can do this.

Isaiah told the people to look up at the heavens so they could begin to use their imagination as God intended. It is the first revelation of God. The New Testament says “. . . what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made . . . .” (Romans 1:19–20)

Chambers says that to Christians, nature is sacramental, a tremendous treasure. He says, “In every wind that blows, in every night and day of the year, in every sign of the sky, in every blossoming and in every withering of the earth, there is a real coming of God to us if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it.”

This explains why that TV channel is so fascinating; the images are the handiwork of Almighty God. It also gives me a partial answer of how to better use my imagination. Again, quoting Chambers, “The test of spiritual concentration is bringing the imagination into captivity. Is your imagination looking on the face of an idol?” Regardless of whether that idol is me or something else, my imagination of God is starved.

When that happens and trials come, the resources needed tend to come out of my memories of what God has been like in the past rather than what He is like right now. Chambers says not to do that —it is God whom I need. I must go out of myself and away from any idols or whatever else that has been starving my imagination, and deliberately turn my thoughts and imaginings to God and what He is able to do.

With these thoughts in mind, no wonder a walk in the woods is so refreshing and such a perfect time and place for prayer. It takes my thoughts to His work instead of whatever is distracting me, and talking to Him becomes easier.

Chambers uses a big word that I don’t know. He says, “One of the reasons of stultification in prayer is that there is no imagination, no power of putting ourselves deliberately before God. We have to learn how to be broken bread and poured-out wine on the line of intercession more than on the line of personal contact. Imagination is the power God gives a saint to posit himself out of himself into relationships he never was in.”

Stultification means: to make, or cause to appear, foolish or ridiculous; to render absurdly or wholly futile or ineffectual, especially by degrading or frustrating means (Menial work can stultify the mind); to allege or prove (oneself or another) to be of unsound mind.

I get it. My prayer life can be lousy because I’m not fully using my imagination in the right way. Yet all is not totally off the mark. Sometimes I do imagine myself sitting with God, His hand holding mine, as I tell Him what is in my heart. Yet it is no surprise that this is easier to do on a park bench than in the living room or in front of my computer.

Right now, all sidewalks and trails covered with ice because of unusual weather so a walk in the park is dangerous. However, again God has quickly answered my request. He tells me to guard my heart (including my imagination) and points my wandering mind toward Him that I might “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Bob worked five hours today, then came home and slept for an hour before supper. He says five hours is his limit. He is still coughing, but sleeping more soundly. I am really tired today, but my mind has been filled with good thoughts!

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