Yesterday I took my grandson, Clayton, who is five, with me to my mother’s apartment where I had to assist her with a few chores. Clayton brought one tiny Lego figure along and a huge imagination.
As I changed bedding and set up medications, Clayton and his little Lego guy went on a trip around the world, traveling by skateboard, roller blades, and surf board, and having adventure after adventure along the way. When we left an hour later, the adventure continued in the car and on into our next stop, the post office.
When I thanked Clayton for being patient and playing so nicely and commented on what a great imagination he had, he replied, “You know why. . . so I can have more fun!”.
I love that answer. He knows what his imagination is for – it brings him great pleasure. I remember using my imagination at around that age to play with dolls and a toy kitchen and tractors and little animals. I am sure I played with other things, but those stand out for me.
Perhaps this is common, but it seems that around the age of ten or eleven, that wonderful imagination went underground, and, for me, didn’t resurface until my mid-forties. I know that isn’t true for everyone because I see so much amazing creativity in people in their twenties and thirties, including my own children.
I have some theories as to why I lived so much in the outer world, but they all really have to do with fear. When I was nine, ten, and eleven, just trying to keep my head above water in a home deeply touched by the dark side of alcohol took a lot of energy. I suppose I could have found solace in my imagination and delved into a make-believe world, but that wasn’t the way I coped.
I took long walks in woods and meadows, played a lot of basketball (usually by myself), and practiced with my older brother’s bow and arrows. These kinds of things helped me get through those years as well as the stormy adolescent stage.
After high school, I couldn’t even “see” myself in a career. I just could not decide what to do. I worked for a while, then decided to attend nursing school. I really did find some satisfaction in helping to make people feel better. I don’t think I knew it at the time, but I wanted to provide a healing presence, an atmosphere that helped to bring recovery and restoration. I was not interested in medications or machines or all the things that go along with modern Western medicine. Without realizing it, maybe I was using my imagination to bring comfort and peace to scared and lonely people in hospitals and nursing homes.
The next several years brought marriage, then three children and a busy life. I delighted in the imaginations of my children and loved reading to them, but I still lived very much in the black and white, exterior, “real” world.
I think that was partly due to a mistaken belief that to a Christian, much of make-believe and fantasy and imagination were off-limits. They could get you into trouble, off-track. I think the evangelical church at that time was a little too concerned about deception – better stick with the approved books everyone was reading and the ideas everyone was thinking. It was safer. Of course, safety was important to me – I had never felt really safe. Popular ideas, even if they might be wrong, were preferable to the unknown.
Fast forward a bit. My children are grown. I have more time to think and ponder life. All that I thought I “knew” comes crashing down around me. Scary. Or maybe not.
As I surveyed the rubble of my long-held beliefs, I felt as if God was saying to me, “Start with what you do know and gradually build from there”. Over the next months and now years, I began to relax and learn to live with uncertainty and mystery. The amazing thing is that I finally began to feel safe. Fear and anxiety were no longer a part of my life.
I began to realize that my imagination was actually the starting point of my external life. Nothing could really show up in my life unless I could first see it in my mind’s eye (or something that represented it). Was God good? Was life full of wonderful adventures?
If I could believe that the answer to these questions was “yes, yes, yes”, if I could “see” that, it would become part of my experience. The Bible says to think on those things that are true, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. That includes a whole lot. I can do that, I can engage my imagination and do that. You know why. . . so I can have more fun!
And bring more beauty into the world – and peace and kindness and love and goodness and joy and abundance. Albert Einstein was certainly right when he said “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.