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...