For as long as I can remember, “imagination” has had a good rep. And I have had a good supply of it. As a kid I didn’t just “wrap Christmas presents”—I performed surgery on anxious patients with nothing but pink safety scissors and a roll of Scotch tape. I didn’t “iron clothes” for my mother—I hosted a televised special on how to get wrinkles out of an Oxford. Imagination, I quickly learned, was a great way to pass the time. And the sorrow.
If I didn’t make the team, I imagined I was the star player. If the cute boy didn’t like me, I imagined that he did. And if the cute boy turned out to be a real jerk, well that was the beauty of imagination! In five seconds flat I could turn him into the man of my dreams. I always assumed I’d quit daydreaming once some of these dreams were actually realized. After all, when I had the amazing job, and the exciting life, and the man of my dreams I wouldn’t need to daydream, right?
Unless I didn’t have those things. Unless somewhere along the way I had created dreams so lofty no reality could compete with them. No man fulfill them. No set of circumstances live up to them. I was probably in my twenties when I finally realized daydreaming could be dangerous. That it could pave a fast track to discontentment.
I think a lot about it now as I raise two young girls—girls who have already fallen in love with the notion of princesses and fairytales. On the one hand, I’m a major advocate for imagination. If I were a fictitious character I’d be Anne of Green Gables, scarcely able to fathom the dreariness of a world without imagination. But as a woman who’s a smidgen wiser than I used to be, I sidle up to it warily. Imagine we’re in a fort cooking dinner out of pine cones? I’m all about it! Imagine we’re digging for dinosaur bones? Let’s do it! Imagine one day every fairy tale wish will come true and life will be perfect? Don’t do it. Oh, my sweet little girls, don’t do it.
Because the truth is, you and I were never made for the fairytale. We weren’t made to live comfortable, easy lives that always make us feel good. We were made to live one real life, with a real God, who offers real hope in a real and broken world. My previous post has opened up a floodgate of real Moms sharing their real stories. It has made me cry, and pray, and rejoice that I am not alone. I am not journeying with Cinderella and Snow White. I am journeying with real people—overcomers in Christ with real testimonies. And I believe that’s exactly the way God intended it to be. Shortly before leaving His disciples, Jesus warned them that suffering was coming. He said He was preparing them for it so that in HIM they may have peace. And then He made this promise: “In this world, you will have prince charming, perfect kids, great hair, loads of free time trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The answer to the reality of pain—the reason we can stand up under it—has always been and always will be found in Jesus. That’s the mistake I made so many years ago–when I didn’t make the team, when the cute boy didn’t like me. I didn’t run to Jesus to remind me that my worth is securely kept in Him. I didn’t let Jesus satisfy my longing to be known and loved. Instead I crafted a really puny version of fulfillment and daydreamed about it. And as soon as the daydream was over, so was the satisfaction.
If there’s one thing I’m realizing the more I blog, it’s that I don’t know your story. I don’t know whether you love to daydream, or haven’t done it since you were five years old. I don’t know if the life you’re living right now fills you with joy and peace, or if it leaves you empty and longing for more. The only thing I know, with wholehearted certainty, is that Jesus is passionate about you. He is passionate not only to rescue you (John 3:16; Romans 6:23), but to give you an abundant life in Him (John 10:10). Don’t settle for the daydreams, the way I did for so long, foolishly believing they’re as good as it gets. They are just a shadow of joy and fulfillment. Jesus is the real thing.
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