Do you think much about your imagination? What it is, and how it works? I think, if you're anything like me, you simply take it for granted.
Therefore, giving some definition will help us all get on the same page. A really helpful book on the imagination and it's need for redemption, titled "Imagination Redeemed", clearly states that the imagination:
"...is simply the power of the mind to form a mental image, that is, to think in pictures or other sensory representations." [p.13]
As a quick example of the imagination in action, remember right now what you had for lunch, yesterday. Let me help you remember (and imagine): What did it look like? How did it taste? Another example of the imagination in action is in our planning for the future: where will you be going tomorrow? What will you be doing?
In short, whenever we relive the past, daydream or fantasize, and plan for the future, we are imagining. It's quite a significant mental capacity. So, a question: have you ever thought that your imagination needs to be redeemed? That God needs to bring healing, renewal, and the power of His grace to work in the midst of all of your imagining? This is the argument of the book, "Imagination Redeemed", and I don't doubt it's truth. You only have to think about how we can quickly plan for and imagine the worst for our future (fear driven imagining), and how often we find ourselves escaping hard, necessary or painful life courses by daydreaming and fantasizing ourselves away into other worlds (or sometimes binge watching what others have imagined for us), to know that we have humans have an imagination problem.
Intentional Change Theory (ICT) and Imagination
I started last week (link here) to unpack very briefly the model of how we sustain personal and group change known as Intentional Change Theory (ICT). The author of this model of change, Richard Boyatzis, argues that personal and group change is not linear but rather happens as a result of a series of discoveries that interact with each other. The first discovery he lists, foundational for change, is the discovery of the "Ideal Self". This discovery is an intentional process of thinking over and uncovering who I really want to be? Or, to put it in more biblical language, who I am called to be. In short, intentional change starts with using our imaginations to think of the future self we feel most compelled to become.
Now this is where things become interesting, if we look to the Nehemiah narrative, especially in chapter 1.
Read chapter 1 over again. What do you observe? I'll share my observations. In chapter 1, we find:
A man whose imagination has become deeply distressed with images of a broken down Jerusalem city.
A man whose imagination turns to the one sure and safe place to go in times of distress - God.
A man who turns his imagination to the only sure foundation for true imagining in any area of our lives - the biblical scriptures, and the history of God's working in and through His people.
A man who finds a new picture of a preferred future stirring in himself as result of turning to God and letting the biblical scriptures fill his imagination, inform his desires, and through time spent in God's presence, an ideal future begins to form in his mind for himself and his people.
A man who is prepared to be more than just good ideas, even magnificent imagining - a man who is prepared to put his imagination, inspired and redeemed by God, into action.
Nehemiah was all about intentional change. And for Nehemiah, intentional change begun first in prayer, by surrendering and soaking his imagination in God - God's truth, God's scriptures, God's promises, God's purposes.
Growth Is YOUR choice
I said the weekly email that change in life is a given, but growth is a choice. Your choice. God has given us the grace. The tools are both ancient and modern. Ancient wisdom from Him, combined with helpful modern psychological frameworks, can truly help you grow...and even transform. Are you ready to make the choices necessary.
Start as Nehemiah did. By allowing God to soak your imagination in who He is, and what He promises.
The truth is, we've all got cause for distress. Life, especially our personal lives, is not all how we want it to be going. We have problems. Difficulties. Pains we avoid. Things we find hard to overcome, even impossible. In other words, we've got great opportunities for growth, if we will approach these challenges (as well as the strength areas in our lives) in intentional ways.
Practice this week.
The New Testament takes us one step further than Nehemiah went. Nehemiah did not have the hope, the promise, and the incredible possibilities we now have in Christ. I would encourage you to choose to grow. To choose to step into a season of intentional growth. We are as a church. Let's do this, TOGETHER. For us who trust in and follow Christ, Jesus has given us nothing less than the best resources to grow. Check out this awe-inspiring promise in 1 Corinthians 2:
"The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ."
I don't have time to explain everything here, but CHECK OUT the last line - what do you and I have? The very mind of Christ. Talk about resources to imagine. Talk about resources to plan a faith-filled future. Talk about resources to work out a way forward through the challenges and complexities of life, and purposefully grow through it all.
If you want a fuller list of incredible promises of who we are, and what we have, in Christ, and some faith-building commentary, get this book by Ps Phil Pringle, leader of our C3 Church Movement titled, "The Born Identity".
Irrespective, redeeming the untapped potential of your imagination starts with bringing who you are, in surrender and seeking trust, before who God is. And the place we discover who God is, every time, is the biblical scriptures. With a seeking disposition, and an open mind, allow God to immerse your imagination in who He is...and watch as you become bold enough to dare greatly - in ways you quite likely never imagined before!
Written By Ps Rob.