What part of your being do you engage in order to think things through? We're talking about study and fact-finding and evaluating details, here. What do you do that work with? Your mind, yes? A lot of us engage the world primarily through our mind; American culture teaches us to do this.
What part of your being do you engage in order to feel things? That's the emotions, right? We talk about engaging people's emotions when we write or speak, and for many among us, this is the primary way that they relate to life; American media teaches us to do this.
And there are a relatively smaller portion of the population that engages life through their will: through choosing, through following through with their choices. I hate to say it, but an awful lot of American religion teaches us to emphasize our will and our choices.
You can often tell which of these components of their soul that people use most, relate most with the world, by listening to them talk for a bit. Sooner or later, you'll hear about "I think this," "I feel like," or "I did this."
Those are all well and good. In point of fact, a healthy human being will use all three components in their everyday life. It's my own understanding that the best choices are made, not with the emotions, and also not with the mind, but with the will, counseled by both mind and emotions, but that's a conversation for another day.
I want to talk for a minute about how to make use of the tool that God has given us called our imagination. I suspect that this is one of our more precious gifts from the God in whose image we're created.
I'll go so far as to say this: there are jobs that we are called to do which are far easier, far more effective to do with our imagine than with any other part of our being.
Let's clarify: this is not the same as daydreaming or wishing or fanciful creating imaginary worlds. Those are very often the result of an undisciplined, untrainned, lazy imagination. "I'm imagining myself winning the lottery!" Yeah, that's not it. Let's put our big kid pants on and look at the work of disciplining the imagination.
This list is NOT complete:
× Dreaming with God. What a wonderful thing it is to share hopes and dreams with God. Absolutely, we need to share our hopes and dreams, if for no other reason than to hear his opinion and solicit his help bringing them into reality. That's a valuable use of our imagination.
But we also need to hear his hopes and dreams. This is a normal and healthy part of a love relationship. We learn so much more about his heart, his values this way. I suspect this one alone is worthy of several books!
× Hearing God's voice. Yeah, God does speak audibly once in a great while, where we can hear him with our natural ears. And certainly, he speaks through Scripure, where we hear with various tools (our spirit, maybe our mind or our imagination, etc). But if we're ever going to get to that place of actual conversation with the Almighty that we all long for, we will hear him most of all through our imagination. It takes practice, training is helpful, but this is within reach.
"My sheep hear my voice," Jesus said, "and they follow me." Are you his sheep? OK, then either you hear his voice, or he made a mistake. Or you haven't learned how to exercise your imagination to recognize his voice. I know several books have been written on this.
× Dreams and visions. Look, if you don't want to have dreams and visions, I'm sorry for you, but get out of our way. The rest of us want to experience all that we can with God, and this is part of it. Trances, too (see Acts 10:10 and 22:17).
In fact, if you look at the effects of these experiences in Scripture, you'll see where God revealed major revelation, where people saved their lives (and the life of the Christ child!), had formidable gifts imparted, all through dreams, visions and trances. Seriously, go look for it; it's actually hard to miss, once you're looking for it.
× Snuggle Time. OK, that's not a scriptural term, I admit it. But God wants to manifest himself intimately with you even more than you are looking forward to resting intimately with him. Snuggling. Or call it whatever else makes you feel more comfortable. (Read the Song of Solomon. When you're alone.)
But this sort of very real experience with God happens through the means of your imagination. Logic just ain't gonna get you to this one, I'm afraid.
Somebody's going to worry here (thinkers, I'm looking at you! Heck, I Am you! This was my issue for decades!)
Yes, there are some dangers with exercising our imagination with God. Let's be honest: we can get into trouble with just about anything if we misuse it; why would our imagination be any different?
The solution is simple: don't be stupid. Well, that and learn to wield the gift of discernment that he already gave you when you first came to faith. You have that gift for a reason: use it! (See Hebrews 5:14.)
But just because you're afraid of your imagination (some people are), or because you don't know how to use your imagination as a tool (that's a whole lot of us Western Christians), or because your imagination is out of your control and runs off with your mind and your emotions without your permission (like mine used to be), that's no excuse to not learn to exercise self-control here.
You know how to communicate with God with your mouth. You know how to interact with God and his word with your mind. You know how your emotions experience things with his Spirit sometimes. You know when you need to make right choices.
Let's become as skillful with interacting with our Daddy who loves us with our imagination as we are with our other communication skills.