by Jonathan Daugherty
A couple years ago I built a wooden bench from reclaimed lumber out of a 100-year-old house. It was my first attempt at building a bench. I wouldn’t identify myself as “handy.” I’m more monkey than mechanic; perfectly able to mimic someone more skilled when attempting to engage “handy-type” projects, but not likely to initiate a launch on my own into the realm of handyman-land. So, I can assure you I wasn’t overly confident when considering the idea of building a bench out of priceless old lumber.
Before I ever picked up a piece of that old wood I had a glorious image in my mind of what I hoped would be the bench I could eventually sit on. It was strong, solidly built, able to withstand rain and storm (and my expanding waistline). The picture in my mind was perfect, and I was content for quite some time to simply close my eyes and grin as I imagined the joy I might feel if I were to create such a seating masterpiece. But I discovered a problem with this; I could never actually sit on the bench in my head!
It was fine and good for me to dream about the classic wooden bench I wanted to build, but until I actually picked up the wood and started putting it together, there would be no bench. The bench project would never be finished so long as it only remained a dream in my head. And so too are the dreams of a life of wholeness, integrity, and purpose if we choose to only imagine such things. We must act. The world of fantasy, however elaborate, does not carry the substance of reality.
The imagination is a powerful gift we possess as those made in the image of God, our Creator. It allows us to reason and think and wonder and amuse. God intends that we use it to glorify Him, but so often we use it to worship ourselves and the creation around us. Porn is a great example of this. It lures the viewer into an imaginary world where he is the center of attention and his desires are all that matters. He focuses his God-given imagination on his own ultimate pleasure. But when he reaches out to grasp what such illusions promise, the essence of the fantasy vanishes like a mist.
This is the problem with lustful fantasy: it creates an imaginary world that disconnects us from reality. I'm careful how I worded this. Imagination is not the problem. God gave us the ability to imagine, and He expects we use it. The problem is that when we engage fantasy (like pornography) we use our imagination to draw us away from the real world, not to better connect with it.
Everything about our being, including imagination, is meant to glorify God. Every thought. Every action. Every motive of the heart. When our lives are anchored in Christ, we become more connected to the world in which God placed us, not less connected. When our mind (imagination) is filled with good thoughts (Phil. 4:8), we are drawn into fellowship with God and others because God designed the immaterial realm of imagination to inspire us, motivate us, process reason, dream, and challenge us to greater impact for good in the material world around us.
This is why lustful fantasy is so dangerous. It lures us into a false world where we are the god. But we aren't God. We are a weak, pitiful substitute. Therefore, no matter how "thrilling" the fantasy in our self-worshiping world, our imagination will eventually be stunted. Why? Because in such a world we can never imagine beyond its creator: us. And since we are finite, limited, weak, and broken, our fantasies will match that capacity. They, too, will be finite, limited, weak, and broken.
But when we turn our imagination to the true Creator, we find a limitless expanse of wonderful possibilities. And not mere possibilities that remain disconnected from our material world, but very real possibilities for richer relationships, more meaningful work, and beauty that builds others up. A God-centered imagination has no restriction on the amount of good that can come from it. Why? Because God is infinitely good, and with Him as our center of attention, the problems of fantasy are vaporized.
Turn your imagination's gaze to the Creator, and see what a difference is made. A difference not only in your mind, but also in your actions. For wherever your mind is focused, your feet will follow. And wherever God leads you in your imagination will produce good in your actions -- if you trust and obey. Don't remain content to simply dream about the "bench" God wants you to build in your life. Pick up the hammer and bring the dream to life...
by Jonathan Daugherty
One night at dinner, during the normal noisiness of everyone eating and talking and laughing, Megan (my youngest) was in especially fine form. She was talking silly and just making everyone laugh with her antics. In the middle of our fun, as I was laughing, I blurted out sarcastically with rolled eyes, "What color is the sky in your world, Megan?" Without missing a beat, she replied with an immediate seriousness, "Yellow."
I have to admit I was stunned with her quick response, not expecting her to answer the question at all and especially not with such an unusual reply. Well, you can imagine the laughter that ensued after she frankly revealed the apparently very real "color" of the sky in her "world." It was a good family memory and left us all with sore abs and wet eyes from laughing so hard.
But as is always the case in these moments in my life with my kids, somehow a nugget of deeper truth lodged itself into my mind. In this case, I got to thinking about this "world" of Megan's that seemed so vivid and real in her mind, but appeared nothing like the world in which we live (in case you were wondering, the sky is primarily blue in our world; although, it can have shades of yellow at sunrise and sunset). As I pondered this alternate world of hers, I was reminded that God has said that as His child I am an alien and stranger on this planet. My true home is a place outside the dimensions of reality I can sense in this body, a home in the "heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
What would I say if someone came up to me and asked, whether jokingly or seriously, "What color is the sky in your world?" Would I even recognize the difference between what I can only see, touch, or taste and the "real world" of my spiritual home as one bought by the blood of Jesus and sealed by the Spirit of God for an eternity with Him?
You see, God's view of life, galaxies, "worlds" if you will, is not confined to our limited dimensions of experience. He is both outside and throughout time and space. When He says that I am "seated in the heavenlies" as a child of His, this is a reality that I cannot fully comprehend right now, but it is true nonetheless. And it is that reality of such a spiritual dimension in Christ that I must embrace and allow to shape and direct my life if I am to truly live as God intended.
Too many believers pass through life without regard to their true home, their real world in Christ. And with such a limited perspective, they miss the great abundant life Jesus said He came to bring. Such abundant life is only realized when the believer lives from the paradigm of the new creation God made him to be by faith in Christ. From such a new, radical vantage point, the believer sees even life in this world from a whole new perspective. No longer is life about the body or food or wealth or fame or any other material need or want. Life becomes beautifully colored by the brilliance, grace, and truth of God's eternal love and purpose for us, His prized creation.
And then you see it, but only when you look up: the sky! The majestic, breathtaking expanse of something so amazing, so unbelievable, you have to pinch yourself to see if you are dreaming (only to realize that your senses don't quite respond the same in the spiritual realm). You see, the "sky" in God's world is Himself. He is brilliant, blinding light, so captivating you can't help but long to gaze upon His glory forever. And that suits Him just fine. After all, that's what you were made for...