We tend to be a little suspicious of our imaginations!
However imagination is God’s gift to us and is as much part of us as our natural appetite. Just like our desire and need for food we can misuse our imaginations or use them to foster proper growth. Jesus encouraged his listeners to use their imaginations when he used parables. They make us digest in our minds the great truths hidden in them.
There are many ways in which we can use God’s gift of imagination to foster our spiritual growth. Here are just a few of them.
You are sitting quietly in a time of prayer. Then you imagine there’s a knock on the door and on opening it to find Jesus standing there. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me”. (Rev 3:20).
So what happens next?
In the Bible when God wants to speak to people, He often calls their name twice. (I Samuel 3:10 and Acts 9:4 are good examples). So why not, from time to time, try starting your prayer time using your own name twice and then in your imagination see how the conversation develops.
A profound prayerful stillness can often result when we imagine Jesus just sitting quietly beside us. Sensing his presence in this way can sometimes help us know His love and forgiveness. Some people even hold their own hand and imagine Jesus is holding it…and why not? After all many of us were taught to put our “hands together” before praying!
Most of us will have wondered what it was like actually to be present with Jesus. For example, as we are reading Mark 2 we suddenly wonder what the paralytic man felt as his mates lowered him down. It all feels very unsafe…they might drop him. . You look up and wonder who will pay to repair the roof. Then suddenly, the jagged hole is hidden by the loving face of Jesus, close to you and looking right at you. He speaks “Your sins are forgiven you” and then later “Get up, take up your mat and go home”. How are those words relevant to your situation at this moment?
You may well ask is this sort of experience “real”? Of course Jesus is not physically knocking on the door of your room. But he will be seeking entry into your heart and life, and if your experience results in a deepening of your relationship with him then that surely is reality at a different level. The process is creative. In the same way you are thankful that you are not a paralytic but seeing the face of Jesus and mulling over his words you may find yourself moving on in your own life with a newfound confidence.
Now let’s face it…. Most of the time we will soon forget these imaginative moments, but then we can’t possibly remember every meal that has fed us. Yet without regular food we would soon get hungry, and at worst starve. On the other hand there will be some meals, maybe like a family Christmas dinner, which we treasure and never forget. In much the same way we need to regularly feed spiritually and very occasionally there will be an experience which, as I often say, gets “tattooed on our souls” Use your imagination, which is God’s gift to you, but because it’s His precious gift try always to use it as He would wish.
Roger M. Vaughan