Take a second and suppose you are in an empty, white-walled room. You don’t need water, food, or a source of light. You are perfectly comfortable but in a completely empty room. What are three things you would like to put in that room? Maybe a chair? A table or bed? What about a book? A plant? Think for a second and decide three things you would bring into that room. I’ll wait… You got it? What you just did is exercise one of the most amazing gifts that God gave to humanity – imagination. Tony Reinke states that we have two functions of our imagination: primary and secondary. Look at what how he describes these functions.
“The primary sense of imagination (seeing in our minds what we’ve seen before) is a skill that we probably share with other creatures. The secondary sense of imagination (seeing in our minds what we’ve never experienced) is a distinctly human skill. Some might say it’s a spiritual skill. God has given us this higher use of imagination to enable us to create art, make scientific discoveries, further technological progress, and write poetry. And God has given us an imagination so that our book reading will be more effective.”Tony Reinke, Lit!: A Christian Guide To Reading Books (Crossway).
I have asked the question a hundred times in my life, ‘Why did God write a book’? God could have directed an awe-inspiring movie, he could have chose to speak audibly to each individual person on a day to day basis, and yet he decided to write a book. I now think that God wrote a book because he gave us the perfect tools to appreciate writing. If God intended on us watching the same movie for the rest of our time on earth as his revelation to humanity then he probably would’ve invented video recording two thousand years ago. Think about it for a second. If God had every say in how he designed the world and humans, don’t you think he would have created us with abilities that match the tasks he would give us? For example, God told Adam and Eve to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. This task would have been very difficult without opposable thumbs.
What’s my point? Look at Romans 12:2
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”Romans 12:2, ESV.
My point is this: reading your bible actually changes you! God has given us the task of crafting our own sanctification while we wait for our glorification in Heaven. God gave us the skill of imagination and the ability to think so that in reading the words of God we truly and rawly see God! As Paul is writing here in Romans, we are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds! What? Is Paul suggesting that our minds can actually be restored and we can know the will of God? Yes! When we savor the riches of God’s word we are becoming more like Christ and we can know God’s will because we are getting to know God! He is saying that this holy scripture is the instrument that God has chosen to infiltrate the deepest, darkest crevices of your heart so that he can mend your broken heart with Himself. Our secondary function of imagination that is unique to humans allows us to read the story of Joseph fleeing Potipher’s wife as a means of encouragement for Christians today to wholeheartedly flee sexual temptation in their own lives. It allows us to read the Creation story in Genesis 1 and spend years imagining what that may have looked like and marvel at the depths of the glory of our God! It allows us to read the terrifying visuals of Revelation and stand in reverence and lowliness before a God of all things as Job did and have nothing to say but ‘Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know’ (Job 42:3). By the grace and sovereignty of God, he designed us with the ability to imagine what we read in a way that creates images in our heads to understand what God is saying and at the very same time produce spiritual reflection in our hearts. What an amazing God!
I think God gave us such a powerful imagination so that we can spend our lives on this earth searching the depths of the word of God and discovering deeper things until we are called home. When we read of Jonah in the belly of a whale we actually come up with an image in our minds of what we think that would look like! We think about what Jonah might’ve been seeing, smelling, tasting (ew), and this is all part of the process of engaging our minds and hearts as we read his word. This is why reading a book is more beneficial to you than watching a movie or playing a video game. When you take in visual concepts you have no need to exercise your imagination and you are stuck with whatever the producers give you. When you read a story about a small person joining a fellowship of warriors to journey across treacherous lands to once and for all put evil to death, you develop a whole world inside your head that somehow still influences the way you view your world!
(Yes. I love Lord of The Rings, why do you ask?)
All of this to say, do not forsake the gift of reading just because it can be difficult. God intended for us to spend our lives reading this book we know as the Bible and he has given us the tools needed to do so. So if you get anything from this article, take heart and start to hone your imagination by reading more for the sole purpose of encountering God in the pages and when someone asks you why God wrote a book, tell him it is because he gave you an imagination.