Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fantasy vs. Imagination

Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale (Creative Commons)
For the longest time as a kid, I imagined that I would become a superhero. In my mind, I had fantasies about being randomly chosen by a government agency for some sort of genetic experiment that inevitably backfired and went horribly wrong, but still gave me superhuman powers to bend time and space at will, turn invisible, and make girls like me.

Deep down, the heart behind this imaginative fantasy world was this: I wanted to help people and feel confident about myself. Superheroes don't have enough time to be insecure and weak, with all the saving and heroics and whatnot. The fantasy I had constructed wasn't based in reality, but there was something there that was core to my identity formation. The only problem: being a genetically-modified superhero wasn't real. It wasn't going to happen. I was reaching for the clouds, and they were vapor in my grasp.

There is a difference between constructing an imaginary future and living with an imaginative vision.

The former is living in a self-made fantasy world. People do this all the time. They believe something about themselves, others, God, or their purpose that simply isn't true or real. It's the idea of "if I can become/obtain/earn/get this job/romance/role/status/achievement, then everything will be great." Living with a fantasized idea of the future based in falsehood only leads to disappointment and isolation.

The alternative is to live with a hope-filled vision of the future as we submit our imaginations to the Spirit of God.

Richard Dunn and Jana Sundene write the following in their fantastic book on discipling young adults, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults:
"God calls us to live with expectancy--to trust that he is at work and will continue to write his story through our lives. To live with expectancy (instead of self-created expectations) creates hopeful vision."
As the Holy Spirit guides us into truth, the reality we experience becomes far greater than any imaginary future we create. Listening for his voice, guided by his Word, careful to rely on the wisdom found in community, and willing to take risky steps of faith allows us to experience the imagination of the Spirit at work in our immediate circumstances.

Live with Spirit-created expectancy, not self-created expectations.

I didn't end up a superhero. Instead, God led me to be a husband and father and pastor and writer. It's a reality I never could have imagined on my own. I think it's better that way. I'm beyond the clouds, living in the solid truth that God loves me, He created me for a purpose, and He is telling a great story in my life.

What self-created fantasies do you need to submit to the imagination of the Holy Spirit? Where might the Spirit be guiding you in your journey?

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