Whatever you do, don’t breathe a word of this post to Gabe. He has no idea I took these pictures. He’d be mortified if he knew you knew that he did battle with a dragon yesterday.
Gabe started sixth grade last week and Gabe still works hard at his play. At imagination. And as much as I pray his imagination thrives until the day he dies, I’m aware that there probably won’t be too many more dragon battles.
That’s why I had wet eyes.
Never Laugh at a Live Dragon
I don’t laugh at dragons. Yesterday I almost cried, but I wouldn’t dare laugh. The full quote is “Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool! he said to himself and it became favorite saying of his later, and passed into a proverb.” If you haven’t guessed, it’s from The Hobbit.
Saturday night Gabe said he couldn’t put his figures away because he hadn’t finished the battle. He’d assembled the Playmobil warriors Friday morning. Then life took over, the fair and friends came, and the army waited, helmets on, swords in hand- for 48 hours on the couch in the back room.
Until Gabe woke early Sunday morning to do the great work of imagination: to make dragon and men do battle.
Too many of us grow up and we forget about imagination. We forget that we still need imagination to grow spiritually. Reality can be beaten, G.K. Chesterton said, with imagination. I still believe it.
So last night when Gabe asked, not really out of the blue, “Mom do you think there really were dragons, that even breathed fire?” I paused.
“Gabe, I think maybe there were.”
Not Too Old Too Imagine
You’re not too old. A sixth-grader is not too old to fight a dragon battle and you’re not too old to set your mind on things unseen. You are not too old to imagine. In fact, you might say, that’s part of your “calling” if you’re a Christian. It’s what we’re supposed to do.
Because imagination is not mere pretending. Merriam-Webster says it is the power of the mind to form images of things not present to the senses or within the actual experience of the person involved. Imagination is the ability to form an image in the mind, to see in the mind’s eye what is not present to the physical eye. To these ears, that sounds remarkably Pauline!
- As in 2 Corinthians 4:18: Look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
- Or Ephesians 1:18: Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
- And Colossians 3:2: Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
You are not too old for this.
Narnia’s No Dream
One of my first and favorite JoyPrO posts was about imagination. It started with a 4 year old Sam making a face out of flower petals. But it ended with one of my favorite scenes in all of the chronicles of Narnia.
Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum the lanky, languid Marshwiggle are closing in on their rescue of Prince Rilian. The Prince had been captured and held hostage by the evil Queen of the Underworld who had him under her spell, believing there was no other world.
…steady, monotonous thrumming…you didn’t notice after a few minutes. But the less you noticed it, the more it got into your brain and your blood. This also made it hard to think.
Narnia, said the witch thrumming, is all a dream. There is no sun. The lamp is the real thing, the rest is a children’s tale. And Aslan? Why, he’s only a big, make-believe cat. (The Silver Chair, p. 182)
Then, just as the enchantment was almost complete, Puddleglum did a very courageous thing. He stomped his webbed Marshwiggle foot in the Queen’s enchanted fire. And there’s nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.
Live Like A Narnian
Puddleglum’s mind became perfectly clear, and this is what he said:
Suppose we have made it up. All I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seems a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. (p. 190-191).
If you’re “into” Narnia, maybe you’ve already adopted this as your battle cry: Live like a Narnian!
Maybe you’ve already make it your battle to shake off dull sloth and joyful rise, and set your imagination on things above.
That is labor! Some of the most effortful work I do happens the first few minutes after my alarm clock goes off.
Do Battle (For Joy) Every Morning
Exertion is just as necessary for us as it was for Puddleglum if we’re to break free from the evil enchantment of the Underworld. We need to exert our minds to form images of what we can’t see right now. Imagination can break the spell of worldliness.
Gabe did battle with dragon Sunday morning. Every morning I have to do my own battle.
Most often it’s against discouragement, selfishness, and the pervasive pride of self-pity. If you wage war in bed first thing in the morning, you’re in good company.
John Piper explains the fight of faith as a fight for joy in the Lord; a battle “to continually recognize, see, savor, receive Jesus as more valuable” than anything in this world.
I get up every morning and fight that fight. Every morning, that’s my war. Am I wanting to look at Twitter before I look at Jesus? Sounds stupid. That’s how stupid sin is. So every morning, there’s war in the Piper household. It’s not against my family; it’s against me, and my old man that I have to reckon dead over and over again (Ephesians 4:22) and pray that the Holy Spirit that would poured out on me, that my eyes would be opened; I would see and savor Christ as supreme. That’s war. That’s called the life of faith. Faith is seeing, savoring, the supreme treasure of Christ.
Give Thanks First
George Mueller, a great man of faith, famously said,
Above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you…But I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls happy in God Himself…Day by day, seek to make this the most important business of your life.
It’s effortful. Other things will press upon you. But God’s grace has been teaching me to make this my first labor each day. So, I thank God- sometimes I force my selfish self- to thank God for 5 things before I roll out of bed.
That’s usually how my battle with the joy-stealing dragon begins.
Labor Each Day: Imagine Dragons. Fight For Joy.
G. K. Chesterton had a way with words. Some of my favorite quotes come from him, including this one: “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”
I did some digging and the quote is not exact. But it seems to be based on this bit from his essay “The Red Angel“:
Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
Gabe was St. George on Sunday. Defeating the evil and the ugly. I was him this Labor Day- fighting evil and ugly- and pray I’ll be everyday.
But defeating an evil dragon is work. It’s noisy work sometimes.
Can You Handle The Noise?
After I snapped the pictures yesterday, I walked in, Bible and journal in hand,
Gabe, would you mind if I sit out here and read for a little while?
I was ready to leave and give him battle space, the pause was so long. Then the shrug,
Well mom, if you can handle the noise, it’s okay.
I sighed the happiest of sighs. Doing dragon battle is noisy, but Gabe wasn’t ashamed.
Oh yeah, Gabe, I can handle the noise.
In fact, I love the noise. Because it’s the noise of real life.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3, NLT