The juxtaposition of these, “when I became a man, I put away childish things” and “unless you become as little children, you can in no wise enter into the kingdom” can appear to be both contradictory and impossible to reconcile. On first reading, these verses, attributed in the first case to Paul and in the second case to Jesus are polar opposites, yet in fact, they are complimentary and in perfect agreement one with the other.
Jesus used the phrase, “become as little children…” He identified adolescent nature. It is the nature of a child to believe. Children trust. Children, since no one has told them that it is impossible to fly, tend to believe they can fly. Ask a young boy to join you on Jupiter, and before you can finish the invitation, he is already on the planet. Imagination takes him there instantly. Imagination conveys a child to places an adult will never see, spectacular dimensions belong to the child because the he can imagine while the adult insists on evidentiary data and reasonable criteria before moving towards an objective.
I am not speaking of unrealistic expectations here. I am focused on that vital link between what is and what can be. Imagination forms the bridge that carries us from the limitations of the present to the possibilities of the future. Where would the world be without imagination? We would still light candles to provide our evening light. We would still be transported by horse-drawn carriages instead of riding 35,000 feet above the ground in insulated comfort if not for the magical gift of imagination.
The unfortunate and self-defeating practice of far too many followers of Jesus is to put away, to deny the very enablement, imagination, that allows us to believe the unseen, to reach to the invisible, to touch that which is beyond. Take note when the Bible provides words such as “consider,” “think,” “behold.” These are encouragements, no, requirements to go beyond the natural faculties we place so much value upon to the neglect of other, more penetrating senses; the ability to believe, to imagine, the capacity to see what the natural eye can never behold.
Faith and imagination are inseparable in the venture of pleasing God. Faith and imagination are essential to the enterprise of missionary effort, the birth of ministries, the establishment of business, the development of new products, the improvement of marriages and families.
Often, faith stands ready to believe, but is restrained until imagination creates an objective to be obtained. The well known song, “Only Believe” is not entirely theologically correct. Believe, and imagine are interwoven as a divine tapestry which becomes a road map to the miraculous, the unheard of, the supernatural displays of God’s mercies and graces. Try it. Imagine, then add to your imagination, faith. “Impossible,” you counter? Ah yes, but tell that to a child!