You’ll notice just about every blog of mine is divided into sections. Two ideas put up next to each other so their contrast will create friction that’ll create sparks that’ll create a fire that’ll illuminate an idea in your mind.
I write this way because I think this way. And I think this way because I grew up this way. Between things.
Persians think I’m American vs. Americans think I’m Persian.
Worldly folks think I’m religious vs. Religious folks think I’m too out there.
Behind the scenes of international TV ministry vs. obscure and invisible face in the crowd.
When the tension between these points became too tight, I’d escape to my imagination.
I’ll give up anything, God, but let me think about whatever I want.
My friends with the house in the middle of nowhere have a gate you couldn’t possibly get through without an access code.
Behind this gate sit acres of land that’ve remained largely untouched for over a decade. Vegetation and gardens grow without any unwanted visitors. Blades of grass that’ve never felt the sole of a shoe.
After decades of co-existing between extremes, I learned how to dance on the tightropes using my imagination as my balancing rod. Every other vice became easy to avoid.
But, of course, Jesus never comes for the idols you don’t have.
Be careful about asking God, “what else?” He might take you at your word.
“One thing you lack, go and sell all you have.”
Give me your imagination, Arvin.
These friends of mine were brilliant to build their house where they did. And perhaps the most genius feature of all is how far their gate is from their front door.
For most of my life, I’ve kept my gate on the line of my actions. I wouldn’t vet or investigate any thought until it suggested an action. In case the metaphor is too unclear, you might recognize the results of having your gate close enough to your heart that any passerby can infiltrate your imagination and throw rocks at your front door:
Thinking you’ve heard the voice of God when it’s actually just a random thought.
Hearing opinions about your appearance or self worth and thinking they’re true just because you heard them.
Setting your hope on one event, relationship, or role.
Move your gate to the other side of your imagination.
It might sound confining to set boundaries on your imagination, but don’t forget you don’t get to build anything on public land without someone else’s permission. And how do you give God what belongs to him when you’ve made it free domain for anyone else?
I started vetting my imagination and noticed immediately which idols I’ve been hiding in my pockets up on this tightrope.
No one gets to my friends’ home by accident. The gate is far enough from their house that their garden remains untouched and uncrushed. They built it that way on purpose.
And, by the way, they had a lot of help building it. They hired dozens of people. Plumbers, contractors, carpet installers, electricians, etc.
Not once have I seen them waste a minute wishing their electrician hadn’t left.
I’m looking around these days at the people who’ve left—who decided life within my gates wasn’t for them.
And I’ve begun to think of those conflicts and pains as the very means by which God has built me.
The plumbers and contractors went out to my friend’s home to do a job and leave. They didn’t stick around because they weren’t supposed to. The only one meant to stay is Jesus. Anyone else is employed by him. And who am I to hate those he hired simply to knock down idols I built in my head?
Put your gate on the other side of your imagination and you’ll quickly find God is eager to give you perspective like this as soon as you give him a landscape broad enough to build what won’t be torn down by the mob in you.
Suddenly, perspective. And, oh my God, what is that over there? Is that gratitude? For them?
Instead of escaping from stress by imagining myself as victorious over all my enemies, inspiring envy in those who left me, or whatever the hell (trust me, hell is the only appropriate word here) else, I started feeling grateful.
I saw rows and rows of tall, hearty GRATITUDE growing in my imagination—
For the leaders who broke my stride, tragedies that broke my bank, women who broke my heart, and the events that broke my spirit.
This is what happens when I give God my imagination? What else can you build?
One thing you lack…
God I’m pretty sure I’ve given you everything.
Sure—but here’s the furthest frontier for you: Your imagination. I want it. Exclusively.
Something you had that you lost. Mental health and peace in your thoughts. You can get that back.
Something you didn’t know existed that God’s hidden on purpose so you can go discover it together.
To be frank, I thought the sole benefit of consecrating my imagination to God would be freedom from lust and sexual immorality, but that turned out to only be the LOBBY of what he’s actually been building.
Thoughts that used to plague me went away. Impossible worst case scenarios that sparked wildfires of anxiety were nowhere to be found. Worries that used to stop me dead in my tracks or inspire some sort of pre-emptive self-sabotage were met at the gate of my imagination with a request for an access code—
Where is this in God’s word? It’s not? Well, I’m not sorry, but you can’t come in.
And friends, it actually worked. The cliches made a comeback.
Not only is there freedom from the thoughts you don’t want to think—but, oh my God, look at what God will do with all that empty space.
All the land being taken up by jealousy, gluttony, and lust now has a gate around it. It’s been redeemed to house a level of gratitude for which I used to mock others.
And, oh my goodness—am I actually crying over God’s love for me? Me, the cynical pastor’s kid whose overfamiliarity with Christendom has fostered a distaste for all things emotional? How am I finally gentle and sincere, content to be obscure and invisible?
One thing you lack…Give me your imagination.
I was shocked when God uprooted my life and took my soul out to the middle of nowhere.
What I didn’t realize was he’d buried treasure out in a field large enough for him to build a place where we’d both dwell together.
And Arvin, there’s treasured buried all over this land. Your job is to dig it up and give it away.
Whatever your furthest frontier may be, I hope you’ll realize the rest of us need whatever God’s hidden in your heart. I hope you’ll venture out with God and find your heart. Here’s a hint, the closer you get to it, the less you’ll be able to distinguish your heart from God’s.