This is a post that I have wanted to write ever since I started my blog. However, I have hesitated to write this post (and the subsequent posts on this topic) because my thoughts are very much still in process. Never the less, my hope for these next few posts is that I will gain greater clarity on the subject matter as I work it out. That being said, I welcome feedback, conversation and dialogue as we journey through these ideas together.
But to get us going I start with a story…
When I was in middle school my dream was to play basketball in the NBA. My hero at that time, along with every other middle school boy who shared my dream, was Michael Jordan, number 23. On Sunday afternoons I would wait with eager anticipation to watch “the NBA on NBC” in hopes of getting just a glimpse of MJ soaring through the air as he leapt from the foul line to stuff the ball in the goal or to watch him gracefully knock down a fade away 3-pointer from the corner while double teamed. It was my great joy and delight to watch him play.
Not only did it excite something in me to watch him play, I wanted to be Michael Jordan. Just like the old gatorade commercials used to say, “Like Mike, if I could be like Mike.” I wanted to be like Mike. I would spend hours in my back yard, late into the night, mimicking the things I saw him do on TV. I would even create game like scenarios and re-enact them over and over pretending to be Michael Jordan… “5 seconds left on the clock. Down by 2. It’s game 7 of the championship series. The in bound pass. He head fakes, dribbles around his defender. Pulls up for the jumper to win the game and….. swish!! The crowd goes wild!!!” These were the things that Michael Jordan did, so these were the things I wanted to do.
Everyone has stories like this from when they were a kid. Maybe yours wasn’t basketball or Michael Jordan, but when we were younger having a vivid imagination was part of being a kid. But unfortunately, sometimes I think we limit imagination to something that is considered “child’s play.” However, we may not realize it, but even as adults our imagination plays a significant role in shaping and guiding our lives.
In his book Christianity Beyond Belief, Todd Hunter says that we live out of our imaginations, not from facts and data, but from a vision and a story of what we desire most and long to see happen in our lives and the lives of those around us. James K.A. Smith in his book, Desiring the Kingdom says that everyone has some sort of vision of the “good life” or “ultimate living” and this vision instinctually becomes the aim of our lives. In a sense we try to make that vision become a reality.
In my middle school years, my vision of the “good life” was to be Michael Jordan. My desires and passions were shaped by the pursuit of playing basketball at the highest level, having shoes named after me (Air Marvel’s perhaps), winning championships year after year and mastering the game of basketball. Over the years my vision of ultimate living has changed. Other things have worked their way into the core of my being and pushed out other visions and other stories of the good life. (Some good and others not so good. For a while in college I wanted to be in a punk rock emo band, but that’s a story for another day.)
The point is this:
1. Our imagination extends way beyond our childhood years and significantly impacts our lives in our adult years.
2. Our imagination has the power to order and control our lives. When I was in middle school everything I did was in hopes of becoming the next great basketball player. I lived and breathed basketball. It was the only thing I wanted to do. It was the only thing I thought about. My imagination dictated the way I lived.
So, the questions is, “What story or vision of the good life is most capturing your imagination?”
Is it the story of career success? Mastering your craft or trade?
Is it the story of the American Dream? A life filled with security, comfort and ease?
Is it the story of revenge? Getting back at those who have wounded or deeply hurt you?
Is it the story of love and romance? Finding that one person who is your perfect mate?
Is it the story of spontaneity? The ability to go wherever the wind blows?
We all have something that grips our imagination and orders our lives, something that’s pulling us toward ultimate living. What is it for you?
Next Post: Kingdom of Imagination. How the call of Jesus and the Kingdom of God reshape our imagination.