By: Andrew Scoles
Imagination and Creativity
“For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.” –C.S. Lewis
Imagination is a tool of the mind that everyone has in some shape or form. It’s what helps us dream, plan, and do creative things. In forming us in His image, God gave us a little piece of His creative power, and it’s up to us to decide whether to use it for our personal pleasure or use it to worship Him and bring Him glory. Let’s take a look at why creativity matters so much and how it can be twisted for wicked, sinful purposes.
When I was a kid, I let my imagination flow over the brim of my mind like an overfull cup of coffee. I avidly read fantasy and fiction when I was in elementary and middle school, letting the images created by the words on the page take over, and creating my own worlds in my mind.
I remember acting out story and battle scenes in the yard and side woods of my family home with a foam sword and makeshift slingshot. I learned to experiment with language, writing poems and stories. My deep, inner desire to tell stories through the creative use of words began to develop. This is where my desire to be a professional writer and author for the glory of God was born. Unfortunately, the Enemy also had a plan for it.
The Call to Create
My imagination has always been one of my most prized possessions. I’ve always valued intelligence, knowledge, stories of magic and myth, history, and the mystery of the human condition—anything that involved lots of details that could make a great story.
The meaning behind each of these things is a testament to our God-given ability to see the world as He sees it, full of potential and promise, full of hope that can build something beautiful. The meaning that we find in life is evidence of the call to create that God puts on the hearts of every one of His children.
This call to create can mean expressing yourself through artistic forms. It can mean understanding, explaining, and building on the wonders of the universe through philosophy, math, and science. It can mean doing something as simple as sharing your resources with someone else.
Without exception, everyone is created with a desire to make something of themself and their surroundings. Unfortunately, like much of what the Lord created, our imaginations are easily corrupted.
I never took my mom seriously, nor did I truly understand what she meant, when she said “Garbage in, garbage out”. As time went on, I changed, as all adolescents and young adults do. My priorities shifted. The real world, its many distractions, the things I’d have to do to succeed in life, and my relationships with others came into sharp focus. I pushed many of my childlike, imaginative dreams and pursuits to the back of my mind in favor of trying to build a social life and fill the emptiness I felt in my soul.
And then came pornography, a word I didn’t even know the meaning of until I discovered it.
As a young, impressionable college freshman with my first laptop, a speedy WiFi connection, and zero parental supervision, I stumbled onto it online as I searched for worldly answers to a deeper desire for companionship in my heart.
I got hooked quickly and began to become familiar with the landscape of pornography. I learned how to find the physical satisfaction that my flesh craved, and I started searching for more and more.
It took almost three years for me to finally admit my addiction to a couple of trusted male friends, who, thank God, didn’t judge me because they struggled with the same issue. But much of the damage was already done, and I’ve spent the years since then working to root out the weeds of lust and sexual temptation in my mind.
Lustful thoughts were the main product of my imagination for a long time, even though I was careful to hide them. Even still, they stunted my spiritual, emotional, and relational growth. My quiet time with God suffered. I fell to a temptation that is unbelievably and unbearably common for both men and women (especially in the oversexualized culture we live in), and my mind was hijacked.
I couldn’t use my ability to create and dream to glorify God when I was using it to satisfy my own desires and objectify people. I was also using porn to numb deep hurts in my heart that I didn’t even realize were there, rather than identifying them, allowing myself to feel them, and giving them to the Lord. These problems contributed to issues with self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and a lack of willpower that I consistently work to overcome to this day.
But recently, the Lord has been reenergizing my imagination and reminding me of the endless possibilities that lay before me in my childhood. Everything from that time, from the childlike faith and optimism to my many creative ideas, is still in my soul. It’s just somewhat repressed because I too often take in other things that make my body a place of darkness.
As Matthew 6:22-23 puts it, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” The Lord is only recently making this change because I’ve been coming to Him more and more often for help in fighting my battles.
As I’ve said, imagination is a powerful tool. When wielded correctly, when made into something real through careful planning and preparation, it can be life-altering and world-changing. And as Christians, we are called to be world-changers, using the creative gifts that God has given us to make a difference, share his love with others, and spread the gospel in spite of every obstacle.
Which is why Satan hates the Christian’s imagination and will use every tool at his disposal to prevent it from receiving and putting into action the energizing fire of the Holy Spirit. “Garbage in, garbage out” means that if we routinely and recklessly let the things of the world take up space in our minds and imaginations, we won’t have room for the things of the Holy Spirit, and we’ll end up becoming just like the world we seek to be different from and preach the gospel to.
On other hand, if we open our Bibles to receive the Word of God and come to the Lord in prayer with repentant and willing hearts, our God can redeem our broken minds and use our imaginations to build up the Kingdom of Heaven right where we are. As 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” What a testament to how our creative power can influence the ongoing spiritual war that’s all around us!
I’ve been afraid of my own imagination for so long because I haven’t had control over it. I’m unsettled by the thought that the Lord can use it to do great things through me, just as I’m unsettled by how I have already used it to sin so much in the past. It has great power, power that the Lord has given me to create beautiful and meaningful things that bring honor and glory to His name.
Unfortunately, fear of leaving my comfort zone has held me back from doing these things. But if I pray for the strength to place a filter over my eyes and choose not to consume things that make my spirit sick, and if I allow the gospel to bring fresh light into my mind, there’s no telling what the Lord can do through me. He can use my imagination to make the most unbelievable miracles occur, ones that defy every rational belief that we hold.
Isn’t it time you reclaimed your imagination for Jesus, too?
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“Andy Scoles has been a follower of Jesus for most of his life, and is passionate about using his talent with words for the glory of God. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Longwood University and serves as a missions director and Celebrate Recovery ministry leader at his church in Lynchburg, VA. His experiences with pornography and recovery through the grace and power of Jesus compel him to speak out and help others find freedom from addiction and new life in Christ.”