how to bring peace to the most dangerous town on earth

“Jesus defined lust as taking place not primarily in dark alleys but in dark imaginations. Greed happens not when I make off with my neighbor’s goods but when I imagine that they are mine. The author of sin in this world knows all too well the power of the imagination, so he too uses music, metaphor and vision for his grim purposes. He seeks to capture us as much as the Father seeks to recapture us.”

Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand

The book is always better than the movie. The movie has so many limitations — time, money, skill, technology. But our imaginations? Limitless. Filled with magic and light and child-like faith, our imaginations are powerful and poignant and impressive.

The only  limit to my imagination is that I cannot put myself in your head. I am stuck inside mine. So when my girl tells me she fears what her friends will think of her new haircut, I dismiss imagination too soon.

“Oh, they’ll love it,” I say. But she is lost in her own imaginary world, pictures laughing and pointing and heavy rejection. In her head, it hurts even though it hasn’t happened yet, even though it probably won’t happen at all.

So I am no help to her when I say, “That won’t happen. Don’t worry about it.” Because our emotions don’t know the difference between real and imaginary. It still hurts. It still worries. There is still fear.

I am learning to practice expanding my own imaginary world to include the imagination of my children. I want to seek to enter into that painful place with her, to walk alongside into the dark alley of her mind, to confront the fear lurking in pretend corners and give her the tools to handle what might come.

Even though the things we most fear don’t often happen, sometimes they do.

It feels small and unimportant, the haircut confrontation. But that is her world right now. And it reminds me that I have a world of my own.

If I, a human and flawless parent, would be willing to walk into the imagination of my child and face her biggest fears with her, how much more will my Father in heaven be willing to walk into my imagination with me and valiantly fight my ugliest battles?

I craft an elaborate world inside my head, one where the motives of every person in my life have something to do with me. It has beautiful potential, the town in my head. But mostly it is dark and threatening. Worrisome. Ominous. Heavy.

I don’t want to live in this town, but neither can I ignore it. Because as much as my enemy wants to capture my imagination, my Father wants to recapture it.

He wants to give me a holy imagination, to restore the twisted thoughts into straight lines again.

To reclaim the corrupt government that rules in my head.

To recover the barren wasteland of my battered emotions.

To repossess the run-down living room I have forgotten to enjoy.

In Him, all things hold together. In Him, the town I have crafted in my head can be redeemed.

If God did not value the power of our imaginations, how could he ask us to believe in a God we cannot see? How could Noah build an ark when there had never been rain? How could Moses lead the people toward a land he had never visited? How could Mary believe the baby Savior would come from her virgin body? What was she treasuring up in her heart if not the image of the not-yet-born God, born first in the heart of her imagination?

I am learning slow the power of inviting God into my imagination. He not only knows about it, but he says he can do more. I want to live in that town, the town that has been reclaimed for his purpose and good pleasure.


  1. says

    There is so much power here. I remember my own imagination as a child, and the crazy things that still go through my head — even though I know they’re crazy. But with my kids, I seem to want to tell them to bury it… to push through.. to just ignore it. But more than that, they need to acknowledge it, and speak truth back to it when that voice inside lies, or scares, or intimidates.

    Thanks for this.

    • says

      I 100% agree with you on this post, its so hard, I let my kids express there imagination, my son woke up early in the hotel room took all our clothes out of the bag and tied them all together and made some sort of rope and tried to hang them up, I asked him what he was doing, he told me making a fort, so cute…

  2. says

    Yes. Yes. Yes. There is a continuous battle in my mind.
    God did create these wonderful imaginations of ours…how we need to subject them completely to his influence.
    Thanks for the reminder, the perspective, and the encouragement.

  3. says

    Sweet friend, my anxious wreck of a soul needed these words today. You have a way of speaking truth in my own language. Sometimes I feel like such a misfit, my thoughts and struggles seem weird and just too much. And then I read your posts and I know there’s a kindred voice. Thank you.

  4. says

    Wow! I think you may have stepped in my head for this one. I have spent years learning the imagination of little one of ten who has Aspergers. Her whole world is a scary and her head just makes it bigger and scarier and I had to learn quick not to dismiss it. I am still learning. And my brain works overtime building my town of lies. Oh how I long to live here, too… “I want to live in that town, the town that has been reclaimed for his purpose and good pleasure.”

  5. says

    Oh my, oh my, oh my how I love this. My biggest enemy for moving forward in freedom is my mind. You really nailed it Emily, thank you. I struggle the most with this in parenting. Find myself on a trail of thoughts that lead to my thinking I am inept as a parent when none of it came from truth.

  6. says

    Wonderful. Thank you. Imagination is an under appreciated tool in the Christian’s toolbox, imo. It’s how we can love the unlovable and refrain from judging the wayward. But as you say, in our own heads when it’s used to point back at ourselves, too often it becomes dark, twisted and misery making. I really enjoyed this post! I’ll have to stop by again. :) Blessings!

  7. Autumn says

    Emily thank you for putting words to this. I am encourged by your blog on a regular basis, thank you for writing. The twisty swirly bunny trails that are my thoughts run rampant in the city you spoke of. And it is a place where everything is centered around me, not a pretty picture. It’s such an encouragement that Jesus will come in and not condemn but redeem. It’s a daily battle to ask him into the city to reign as king.

  8. says


    I have been struggling, deeply, with my own thoughts. My blogging has been bleak because my mind is so anxious. My life is full of “what do people think” of my parenting, my housekeeping, my frizzy hair…

    My heart is heavy, anxiety paralyzing, my body broken (physically) and exhausted and weak…

    And your words spoke right into my soul.

    Thank you for sharing your grace-full perspective.

    Under His Mercy!

    • says

      Jen, this just proves that community brings courage because all those things you’re struggling with? Me too – at least, at the heart of them – the what-are-you-thinking-of-me syndrome. And so I’m glad these words have helped encourage you. It has helped me to write them.

  9. says

    Wow. This is the most personal and thought-provoking thing I have read in awhile. And so timely … God working through you into me and neither of us aware. I love Him. I love this post. Thank you for sharing your heart and your imagination and your wonder so that we might do the same!

  10. says

    “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” Winston Churchill

    He said it more consicely but you said it with much more beauty and imagination. As we set children free to dream and imagine, we will set them free from so much more. Thank you for the powerful reminder.

  11. Dorothy says

    Amen and Amen! I really relate to expanding my imagination to understand my children. Recently, my 6-year old daughter has had recurring dreams where she skeedoos (like in Blue’s Clues) into different, often horrible places, and can’t find the skeedoo place again to get out! At first, my reaction is the same, “It’s just a dream, we can’t skeedoo,” but when I think about the dream, I would be frightened to be in a strange, and horrible world and not get out! Thank you for your constant honesty.

  12. Amy says

    This post brought tears to my eyes, a prayer to my lips and is a balm to my soul. I often say that I live too much in my head, and have been feeling that accutely today. God is speaking to me through your words. Thank you for being a willing vessel!

  13. marylyn says

    thank you o so very much for this today. my imagination has been wreaking havoc on my grown up mind, leading me in circles through the desert away from the only one who can truly bring me rest. peace. hope that does not disappoint. i so needed to remember that he is in control and he is bigger than i could ever ascertain. God used your words to speak life over me; thanks for being his vessel.

  14. says

    The world I craft inside my head seems to be the same as yours. Do I really cross people’s minds as much as I think I do? And we, our Sunday school class, just beginning to study “The Mind of Christ” by T.W. Hunt. Coincidence? I think not.
    Confirmation, I’d say.

  15. says

    Thank you for putting in words what I have been feeling for so long! So much of my emotion is wasted on what I imagine people are thinking or what they are going to do, when its probably not even true. I knew I was doing this, but didn’t think of giving my imagination to the Lord. So much He can do by taking our thoughts captive to Christ. Thank you for this!

  16. says

    Brilliant. Just takes my breath away. I love the part…. “If God didn’t value the power of imagination…” So incredibly affirming and encouraging. But oh the games and tricks it plays, the mind, and the places my mind takes me that are harmful and hurtful and discouraging. With God, and by God, and through God and His Spirit we can reclaim the city of the mind and let His peace be restored there. Oh, Emily this is beautiful on so many levels but so rich in Truth and exactly where my heart and mind need to dwell in tandem today. Bless your hand for writing, and your heart for walking this one out on paper.

  17. says

    I am sitting in my living room which is run down because I have failed to enjoy it. As I read that line in your post, I was just bowled over by the connection between this room and the one in my head. A holy imagination…oh, how I need to nurture this. Thank you for these insights and the beautiful word craft of your post.

  18. says

    I always quote Sara Zarr when I talk about the importance of imagination in the life of a Christian. I like how she points out that reading is an important part of building the imagination.

    “That’s something that books about people in the thick of deep human struggles can give a reader. Even if our lives our a-okay, we can put ourselves in the shoes of characters who are in the midst of pain and imagine what it feels like to be them.

    Imagination is a prerequisite for…everything. Without it, there is no chance for change, growth, hope, faith or peace. If those who have religious reasons for challenging or banning books want to raise up a generation that has religious faith, they’d better be on the side of imagination. If you have a faith, as I do, that centers on a in a God you can’t see, touch, or hear, you’d darn well better have a limber imagination or else that faith will be dry, impersonal, and academic. Which will make it easily lost in the thick of life. If you want a Godless generation, the surest way to achieve that is being anti-imagination, being scared about thinking about things beyond your direct experience.

    Books that are about people exactly like us—who believe like us, live like us, love like us, think like us—don’t require very much engagement of the imagination. Sure, they might trigger self-centered fantasies that since we’re sort of like the girl in the book, maybe we could have that boyfriend, those clothes, that social status. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Entertainment is good. But it’s not the same as deep engagement of the imagination, which is the first and most powerful stepping stone to empathy, compassion, and the beginnings of creative problem solving, and thereby hope for change where change is much needed. In the world or just in our own little spheres and communities.”

  19. says

    Oh, Emily. How beautiful and full of the Spirit your words are! I began reading this post yesterday, and I kept being interrupted. God knew I would need it more today. You see, I have been considering a job change but praying ever so hard that God’s will be done. I have felt scared to imagine what my future holds because I want God to design the future – not me. (It is not my future but His!)
    I read your words today, and now I feel so encouraged. ‘If God did not believe in the power of imagination how could he ask us to believe in a God we cannot see…’ those words and all the examples you gave have reminded me that God is THE CREATOR. He unlike anyone else must understand and really want me to passionately imagine a what future serving Him and walking in His will looks like!

  20. dawn says

    I’m going to move to that town with you!
    Thank you for reminding me about my children’s world. The one inside their heads. This mama needed that reminder so that I can offer more compassion.

  21. Rebecca Sarine says

    “Because our emotions don’t know the difference between real and imaginary. It still hurts. It still worries. There is still fear.”
    So true. I need more compassion for my kids and for my friends too. And then for myself. I often say the same thing unhelpful things to myself.

  22. says

    Me too! I want to come live in the new town!

    One of the things I’ve learned over the past two years is that feelings–my feelings, others’ feelings–are valid. Even in times when there may be confusion or misunderstanding of what caused the feelings, the feelings are still there. They are real. But–and this was big for me–they are just feelings. In short, they’re valid, and sometimes they need to be validated by another person. They don’t have to be the masters of my actions, but they do need to be addressed.

    In the past, I’ve mostly tried to ignore my feelings. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty (a feeling, of course) about the fact that my feelings were less than desirable. “You shouldn’t be mad, Richella; you shouldn’t be angry; you shouldn’t feel sad.” And now at long last I’ve learned that sometimes I DO feel mad or angry or sad, and God is happy to walk right into those situations with me. That world inside my head? God is glad to redeem it. Oh, boy!

    Parents get the most awesome privileges, don’t we? To be models of God’s love for our kids–now that one’s awe-inspiring. Scary, but amazing.

  23. says

    It is so fascinating to me, the way the Holy Spirit works. A few months ago, I watched a christian program, where the speaker was talking about imagination; a subject I hadn’t previously given much thought to, other than in a negative reference (“cast down vain imaginations”. Since that day, it seems everywhere I turn, I’m hearing or reading something on the subject, as well as that the Holy Spirit has been teaching me the many sided aspects of that word and it’s meaning.

    The same is true for my husband, who’s been speaking a lot on it lately, in reference to our needing to first “see things” (imagine) them happening in our mind’s eye, so we can then ‘hope’ for them, and have faith for them to come to fruition.

    Good word!

  24. says

    So often when you write, even though I know that you are writing about your own heart, I feel that you are writing out mine in words that I LONG to articulate. Thank you so much for being GUTSY enough to lay it out there…I am one that is changed by your openness.

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