Yes, Father, for this was well-pleasing in Your sight.

Matthew 11:26

We tend to live at odds with ourselves, internally, and we use neither our imagination nor our intellect to its fullest, or best potential. Some of us live too much in our intellects, others in what the Apostle Paul called our “vain imaginations” (see Romans 1:21). C.S. Lewis observed, of himself, “Such, then, was the state of my imaginative life; over against it stood the life of my intellect. The two hemispheres of my mind were in the sharpest contrast.” This quote from Surprised by Joy captures so much of what life is like when lived in our modern mindset.

But note that Paul said it was the vainness in which we employ our imaginations that was the trouble. Elsewhere he wrote that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). The word in the Greek for “think” in this verse is actually “to imagine.” Our imaginations are not bad or evil but merely a function of the heart. We think in our hearts, according to Proverbs 23:7, and “heart thinking” is what we call the “imagination.” We manufacture and produce, in our lived experience, images—of ourselves, of God, of others, of the world. This is what we imagine.

Therefore, to use our imaginations rightly—to plunge them back again into wonder, awe, mystery, insight, understanding, celebration—we need a better image in our imaginations. So, where do we get that better image? Our Father, the source of everything, is also the best source for the images we need, and seek, to fill our imaginations. What we need are more productive images, ones that produce the life of God in and through us. The answer to a vain imagination, one filled with evil imaginings, is not reason and rationale, but a fruitful and godly imagination.

Think about Jesus: He imagined that the Cross, an instrument of evil and torture, was the perfect place to put to death the old creation and to set up the start of a new creation. Jesus re-imagined what that Cross could—and should—mean because He lived connected to what the Father saw about everything. Jesus learned to yield His imagination to His Father, so that which His Father held as “well-pleasing in His sight” was what Jesus submitted His imagination to.

Jesus saw a cross of death and imagined it as a Tree of Life, treated it as such, and died there so that all may live. That is the power of a fruitful, godly imagination when submitted to God. What we imagine in our hearts is what we produce in life. What are you imagining?