Have you ever just absolutely marveled at your kids’ ability to just play and play? My boys (8, 12) play this game that I get and I don’t get. It’s often played with Lego and/or Playmobil where they build these elaborate bases (MIXING Lego sets incidentally, which I thought I had taught them not to do… I have failed my children) and then they go to war. They have missiles and guns, battlements and shields, and a financial system for base improvements. I don’t what the rules are or how you win but I know there is often a lot of happy excitement when they play. The really crazy thing, though, is that this game started as a drawn game on paper. They used to draw their bases and missiles and shields; it was bizarre.
I was talking to a mom whose four kids are all bunched into 4 years and all around the middle school age. She told me that this summer had been tougher for them because they play less than they used to and since they don’t have much in the way of digital entertainment (and limit what they do have), they suffered some bored moments. Is that to say that their imagination has died? Not likely, but what is played out in their imaginations is different from it used to be.
The imagination is a stunningly brilliant invention. It has allowed us to “see” God in ways that would not be possible otherwise. For the prelinguistic cultures (before writing) the imagination was the place where the stories of God were kept safe for future generations. If they had simply been memorized lines, they would have been much harder to remember and, no doubt, much more boring. But with the imagination, oral stories could be told in beautiful detail. There would have been a lovely synthesis of the imagination of the storyteller and the listener as divine truth was communicated through stories.
The imagination is under attack today. It has always been under attack in one sense because age tends to dull the ability to wonder creatively, but today the attack is different. It is an attack of content. The imagination is different from the mind, but they are intended to work in partnership. A good illustration of the mind is to think of it as an empty vessel at birth that is filled all throughout life (some vessels leak a bit more than others.) But the imagination is not a vessel to be filled, it is a screen on which the mind can project images. This is why it is so critical to consider the content that you fill your mind with!
When your mind is filled with truth and beauty, wonderful stories (yes even war base stories) can be played out on the screen of your imagination. But when the mind is filled with lies, the movie is dark and scary. A poor imagination then really comes from a dull, or worse, polluted mind.
So how do we maintain a healthy mind that can play good images onto the screen of our imagination? The first step is to consider who is filling your mind. I considered saying, “Consider what you are filling your mind with,” and that would have been accurate, but someone is responsible for the content going in there. Certainly we make choices about what we put in. What moves, music, images, lies and truth we put in, but someone is actually thinking about influencing you, and your kids, along the way.
The most obvious person who seeks to destroy the mind and corrupt the imagination is the devil. Indeed, 1 Peter 5:8 warns us that our enemy prowls like a roaring lion looking for a victim to devour. But who are his agents? Movies are a key agent of corruption and this is why, when we read our mind needs to form the images that are played out in our imagination but when we watch a movie the pictures are provided for us. Now certainly there are books that would corrupt our minds, but this corruption usually remains in the form of words which are nowhere near as dangerous as pictures because the mind and imagination play best with pictures! (“A picture is worth a thousand words,” comes to mind.) Music is a close second to movies.
I believe that the devil has used Hollywood to infiltrate our kids minds so that it would be incapable of displaying images in the imagination that are true and beautiful. And I think that because our kids watch so much TV and movies that their imaginations are too dull to even realize what is happening. When the images are all provided for you, your mind-muscles atrophy and eventually aren’t much use in your faith. (Or the mind gets so polluted that we intentionally avoid using our imagination for fear of what will pop up there!)
The four kids mentioned above will be OK in the long run because I know that they are simply in a transition period. They are growing up and the imagination plays a different role in a teenager’s life than in the life of a child. (For example in winning the heart of a member of the opposite sex.) They are in a dangerous season, of course, where they may get lazy with their imaginations and go for a lesser thrill, but if they can avoid getting sucked into all sorts of media then I have full confidence they will emerge from the doldrums with their imaginations intact and even strengthened.
Your imagination is a gift! And when you look at your kids playing, determine in your heart that, as a parent, you will do whatever it takes to steward that precious gift for them as best you are able. Your child’s faith will actually be stronger for it! (And you’ll remove a key weapon of the enemy!)
You will keep the mind ⌊that is⌋ dependent ⌊on You⌋ in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You. Isaiah 26:3 (HCSB)