Do you remember when you were a child, and had one of those friends that followed you around everywhere? The kind of friend that was always beside you no matter what you were doing, and encouraged you when no one else was around to? You know, the friend that literally everyone seemed to ignore except you—almost like they were invisible?
Yes, I’m talking about the childhood phenomena of imaginary friends.
Not too long ago, while teaching, I was assigned to be the aide of a “special needs” student—let’s call him Indy. I put “special needs” in quotes, because this kid was awesome; what made him special to me was that he was literally more fun to be around than all the “normal” kids. Apparently, he was usually very wary and uncomfortable of new faces. But immediately when we connected over our love of the movie Toy Story, that thinking was thrown out the window. We bonded, he showed me that he is way ahead of his age group in math (like…way ahead of me when I was his age), and that autism means nothing if you are generally a cool kid.
The other particular thing he showed me, was his imaginary friend, Jesse.
Jesse would help me advise him on being a kinder person (“Jesse says you’re right, being mean is not good.”), help him teach me math (“He says you take too long to do easy math.”), but most importantly, encourage him that anything is possible even if it hasn’t happened yet (“We can do this! Jesse says together all three of us can do anything, we just need to put some sweat behind it!”).
It Can’t Happen if You Don’t Think It Up First
That’s the best thing about the imaginary friend, Jesse. Someone that isn’t even there to me, is there for someone who needs him. And if Indy didn’t have Jesse in his imagination, then he wouldn’t have some push to get things done. When we are pondering how to take staples out of a board without a staple remover, Jesse encourages Indy to think critically and come up with possibilities by using a pencil. When Indy doesn’t know if he can slide as far on the floor scooter, Jesse tells him it’s totally possible, he just needs to make it happen through believing it.
Really, that applies to everyone, adult or child—and why I was so inspired by Indy’s imagining of his friend, Jesse. It’s a means for him to understand the power of his imagination; and an example for us as well. If we are staring at a task we’ve never tried before, but can’t think about solutions or visualize ourselves doing it in the first place, of course we’re not going to get it done.
That’s simply because we aren’t pushing our minds to see creative solutions.
Believing is Seeing
As an avid reader, I really like Mark Twain. He wrote the legendary novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark said this of our imaginations:
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” –Mark Twain
How true is that? When your imagination isn’t focused; when there is no intent behind visualizing success or searching for creativity, your eyes are worthless. You’re never going to see a tangible result, what you want, or what you are chasing for. In that sense, seeing isn’t always believing in order to realize God’s potential for you. You have to first have a focused imagination—and the intentions of using your creativity and imagination to achieve—to even have a shot at something that seems new or “beyond” you.
What’s more, if God is using someone else to do some dynamic, awe-inspiring stuff, or they’re on the verge, you might miss out. You might be relying too much on your eyes instead of using your mind to experience what’s unfolding.
If Albert Einstein, a great scientist—the guy who made the general theory of relativity, in case you forgot—says this:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” –Albert Einstein
You know the power of imagination, and in turn the act of believing to see, is legitimate.
Just like Indy with Jesse, having an invisible encouragement—an imagination that you believe in—that some might not see or understand can be a real motivator. It can help guide you in reaching new peaks, or pushing past limitations. An active mind for creating can spur you to action when no one else seems to care.
Have an intent to shape the yet unshaped. Believe in your yet-unseen to see the eventual realities.
Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach