What fills your mind?
Stories have played a major part in my ability to cope with the hard of life. They filled the space that was overgrown with fear and uncertainty like water rushing into a jar covered with old grime.
My imagination became the tool I utilized to allow my curiosity to have free reign, where I was safe as a child in an abusive home, where I had control and a voice. At first it learned the ropes as I read everything I could get my hands on and smuggle into my backpack at the library…
I remember when I was in middle school telling the Lord that he could have everything—what I would do and where I’d go in my life—except he could not have my mind. “My mind is my own,” I told him.
Much later after college I was out with a friend at the theater watching the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie—and in the middle of the prison break scene where they take the control tower in order to fly out of this inescapable prison, the Lord spoke to me and whispered, “That’s your mind. It’s the only thing I want in your life. It controls everything.”
Imagination Gains A Life Of Its Own
As a very young child I had let my imagination take on a life of its own and had come to enjoy thoughts that were not glorifying to God. I started writing when I was six, and got to the point of fostering an imagination good enough to create and explore worlds without even putting a word on paper. I created places in my mind where I could take out the anger and frustration I could never express to my parents or any other adult.
Those worlds became a great source of comfort and safety to me.
Time passed and the Lord started telling me, “I want to be your safe place.” I didn’t know what that meant or how to even move into this “refuge” that the Bible also spoke of so much. There are still ways that I’m learning and growing to let him be my safe place.
I wanted to let him be my safe place, but I also couldn’t let go of the spaces I’d made for myself. I started going to therapy, and one day in our weekly session the therapist looked at me and asked me if I wanted to ask God to give me a space to meet with him.
She asked me to tell her some things that I find comfort in. “I like nature, but I also like city spaces…I really love and seriously miss Korea…I really like coffee shop ambiences—little nooks…places that are kind of hidden away and eclectic…. Light is really important to me. The way the sun falls…”
I shared a little more with her. And then she prayed.
She asked me to close my eyes and then she started narrating: “It’s about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and you’re walking down a street in Korea. You know where you are… You stop for a second and look around. You hear a voice, ‘Hey, Carolyn! I’m waiting for you!’ You close your eyes and the sun hits your face, the breeze is in your hair, you smell the most delicious smell… You feel safe and happy, you continue down the sidewalk and come to a set of stairs on your right. You look up–”
Meeting With Jesus
As she spoke, my mind’s eye unfolded the space around and before me. She’d prayed for God to illuminate my imagination and set it apart to show me what he wanted me to see; that he would take me to the space he wanted to meet me in. She gave just enough direction, and then my mind filled with the unsaid details I trusted were from the Lord’s hand.
And then my hand was on the knob. I turned the glass, textured globe in my clutch, pushed open the door to the tinkle of the bell hung on the corner, stepped in and looked left—
There he was.
I couldn’t quite see his face, but he was sitting there and his presence was there—vividly whole.
The next couple of months, whenever I fell into stress, I practiced going there in my mind and speaking with my Savior. I would sit and sometimes lean against him—and talk. At the time I was living with my grandparents, who were in their late 90s, and helping care for them. There was a lot of pressure, isolation, and restless conflict in my heart.
One night in the middle of watching an episode of M.A.S.H. I heard God’s voice break over the sound of Hawkeye, Colonel Potter and Frank, “OK, you can give it to me now.”
I sat up, my little portable DVD player sliding off my stomach. I slowly pulled my earphones from my ears and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. “What?” I asked into the silence. My throat was closing off and tears were filling my eyes.
“You can give it to me now, Carolyn.”
My hands clutched the edge of the bed angrily. “What?” I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
I had tried to commit suicide to end the violent thoughts I was indulging in and could no longer escape. I had fasted, and begged, and prayed to be changed. Now here in the middle of the night while I was watching some old TV series on DVD, God was showing up and casually telling me he would take it if I wanted to give it to him.
“After all my suffering, you’re just going to nonchalantly say ‘you can give it to me now’ like nothing?” Anger and confusion pulsed through me as the sobs came.
“I can take it now because now you know that I love you regardless of your sin.
“ That it’s not you being sinless and doing things right that make me love you.
“Carolyn, if you give it to me, I will treasure it—
I know that it was all you had.” The image of the woman dropping her two little worthless pennies into the temple coffers popped into my mind.
I felt the internal hands clutching my precious internal world to my chest slowly loosen.
He was sitting on the bed across from me.
Trembling, I opened my hands. He reached out and took what I held out. His face was soft and sincere. Even though I wasn’t looking at specific facial details I could feel his face there. His eyes were kind. I was safe here.
This part of my story is another glimpse, not only into his heart, but into the way God uses imagination to breach the gap between the already but not yet, the invisible tangible things of the spiritual life we live in the physical world our bodies dwell in, and how he uses it to bring life and restoration into the death that entered our planet long ago. The way intangible imagination mingles mysteriously in the physical as the path to healing and tangible change he desires to birth in and through us.
The way Jesus used mainly parables to speak to people shows the importance God places on story and the imagination in communication. Besides this, he has preserved and maintained the continued production and protection of a journal of life’s stories, prayers, poems, and prophecies of his interaction with people and their experiences and feelings from the beginning of time.
When we look around us in nature, we can also see the possibilities of God’s ways—some of his imagination in physical form: the myriad of flower shapes, colors, smells, and strange little details—as well as the seeds and fruits they produce. The range of little bug species and the different jobs they do in nature…the way that time and sun placement allows the environment to change so that we have something called seasons…all of these are just a small sample of God’s imagination for us to experience, and interact and play with.
Not only do our imaginations allow us to identify with experiences and stories that are unlike our own, they allow us to think about possibilities and move from our current space and circumstances into others. Our imaginations help us get perspective on things we don’t agree with and can help us have compassion and patience when we might not want to; even with ourselves.
God is a God of laws and rules and ways that don’t quite make sense in our universe —because ours are merely lines to the beginning of a story that exists beyond the sun.
If we so choose, we can in and through everything, experience more of all God has for us—our creativity and imagination being one of the ways he has given us to touch his finger
and come alive.
Carolyn, thank you for sharing such a personal experience of how the Holy Spirit used the gift of imagination to meet with you and comfort you.