Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Can You Imagine?

“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. “ Ephesians 3: 20-21

Our imaginations are powerful. With them we can make ourselves feel scared, or happy, doubting or confident. How many people reading this have ever been in a situation where what you imagined was far worse or better than the reality? I know I have. I remember being in a cemetery with a group of friends during high school. We were walking and talking on the road weaving through the grounds on a moonlit night in October when we passed into a grove of trees. Instantly we got quiet and then we began to “hear” people around us, whispering, breaking twigs in the forest as they got closer to us. We began to get scared as we pictured the worst. And then we ran! Afterwards when nothing happened, we laughed and laughed about how our imaginations got the better of us.

Or how about the young freshman girl who dreams about going to prom? For years she looks at prom dresses on-line. When she goes to the department store she spends hours just trying on dresses that she will never wear. She imagines in great detail how wonderful the night will be dancing it away with the right guy in her arms. And then when junior year comes and she goes it seems somehow less special than she had dreamed of for all those years and she leaves feeling a little disappointed.

Motivational speakers even urge people to imagine themselves winning the award or making the team or losing the weight. Using mental images they encourage people to reach for what they see in their minds and then do whatever it takes to achieve this success.

But you know what? Our imaginations are only as good as what we have put into our minds. Our imaginations can only bring to the front of our minds what we have stored in the back of our brains. And we input things into our brains all the time: conversations with people, seeing others who have what we want, magazines, movies, TV shows, advertisements, books—all of these things and more add to the memory reserves that our imaginations can draw from.

Perhaps this is why we have such a hard time yearning for heaven: because we can’t even imagine what it is like. Perhaps this is why people can get bored with God or the Church: because we can’t really imagine what God is like. The problem is that when our imagination fails us in these instances, we often fall back into what we can imagine instead of realizing that we can’t imagine what God and heaven are like because they are beyond our imaginations and far better than what we can imagine. God is so great and loving and heaven so beautiful and fulfilling that our imaginations are not adequate to the task. Nothing in our experience is enough to allow us to imagine the greatness of God and our final home.

And yet, if we open our hearts and seek His face, our hearts and souls and minds will begin to yearn for that which is beyond our imaginations with such intensity as we have never experienced. Far from relying on the limited experiences our imaginations draw from, with the gift of faith we will yearn for more than we can imagine. And how glorious is that?

Dear Jesus, cleanse and purify my imagination from anything that is not of You and help me to fill my mind with only that which is beautiful and true, so that my heart will be free to desire only You and my eternal home. Amen.

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