Thursday, January 14, 2010


It can be pretty wearing to have an intense imagination. I don't even usually consider myself to be a very imaginative person. I have very little desire to read fiction, much less author it. If I go to a movie not based on a true story, then it better not be science fiction (cough, Avatar), and if one element is farfetched (such as the time-traveling in The Lake House or the 13-year-old trapped in a 30-year-old's body in Big), then the rest of the movie better be commentary on human relationships; otherwise you cannot count on me to sit with a bucket of popcorn and my beloved Junior Mints for two hours.

(Exception to these rules: The Labyrinth. Hello. Puppets. David Bowie. Completely in an extraordinary league of its own. Duh.)

Otherwise, I don't think of myself as having a very vivid imagination. On the contrary, I would say I have a pretty lazy imagination. When I color with crayons (which I do often), I rarely make an illustration of people, things, an event. When I do, I do it quickly and try not to get up to go to the bathroom because by the time I get back I will have lost interest. I usually just find relaxation in putting color on the page, making oblong shapes with smooth, curved edges and filling them in with cool greens and blues, then adding stripes of bright magenta to feed the bright color fiend in me.

A couple of years ago, however, my mom told me I have "too good of an imagination." My irrational fears were getting the best of me, and these same exact fears catch me up every day two years later; it is this realization that makes me wonder if I have moved forward at all in that time. This weekend Nick's dad preached on the passage in Romans 7 that talks about how we do what we don't want to do and we don't do that which we do want to do. He told us that no matter how much we try and switch up our behavior to better ourselves, we will always have a wicked, awful, disgusting human nature. You could rub the feet of elderly members of a retirement community every day of your life, and you would still have selfish, evil desires in your heart until the day you die; we can't help it, this nature is just there. And it is important to separate this human nature from what we more commonly view as our personal "sins:" things we do wrong; the former is just a state of being, just the way things are, the latter is an action we take; and it is the combination of the two that makes me worry.

Romans 7 talks about how, ironically, when a law or rule or social taboo is laid before us, that is the exact thing that makes us want to break it. It discusses the irony further in saying that, with this logic, shouldn't we just remove the law altogether to keep from tempting us in the first place? No!, it explains, that is where God's grace, unexplainable, unfathomable grace, comes in.

I really am not typing all this to be preachy. That is the last way I want to come across in my writing, in the way I communicate with others. I say all this because I see its truth in my own life, and see it validated in Scripture. It is from all these things discussed in Romans 7 that my irrational fears take root. I let my imagination run wild and start to wonder about all of the horrible things one (specifically me, because I am selfish and it is all about me) is capable of doing. This is not a healthy mode of thinking, I realize, but I can't help it.

I try to think of all the good I can do, too (Philippians 4:8 "Whatever is true/noble/right/pure/lovely/admirable/excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things"), but it is this ironic juxtaposition of good and evil that that pesky human nature brings in that freaks me out. And it is that which freaks me out, rather than the nice things I can do in retirement communities or elsewhere, that I choose to focus on. For better or worse, anxiety has decided to marry me in this life, so it is the cross I bear and while it makes me attuned to detail which gives me content for writing such as this, the flipside is, well, it freaks me out. And let me tell you, friends, being freaked out is just really no fun at all. And it causes a lot of people to answer their phones at 3am to calm down a very anxious Bailey. But you've read enough about my anxiety in other posts, so I will spare you right here right now.

So when my mom told me my imagination is too strong, it was in response to all the things I know that people are capable of, and fear that I might someday go crazy and do them myself. Let me preface this next statement by saying that I am a horribly judgmental person. I do not sit calmly and think harmonious thoughts about God's children. I think about how they drive me crazy, how they have more money than me, how their social skills do not equal mine, how I am more intelligent, attractive, etc. etc. etc. We all do this. I just want to point out that I am definitely a part of that judgmental group, before I say what I'm going to say next, which can put me simultaneously in a humble yet disturbing light.

When I watch the news and see criminals, I don't respond by saying, "That is so sick. How can anyone do that? Why do bad things happen to good people?" I do agree with all of those comments and wonder them myself; however, I also think to myself, "Any last one of us could do that." Maybe this freaks you out, and maybe you find that extremely offensive, as if I am calling you a criminal (which I am most certainly not). But, if you will, think about it. Like I said above, I am terribly judgmental and therefore am the poster child for self righteousness, but I am also terribly uncomfortable with being self righteous. Therefore I don't walk away from the evening news feeling puffed up, thinking about the great person I am, thinking "thank God I'm not that awful person on TV." Instead I think (in less cliche terms) of the cliche phrase: "but for the grace of God" that would be me on the evening news.

I also think I'm terribly comfortable with being vulnerable, and have this compulsion to "confess," which is why you all have the pleasure of reading my confessions here. Food for thought, friends. Let me know what you think, if you so desire.

"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." --Romans 7:21-25

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