I’ll admit, I went to a certain kid-themed movie (i.e. The Lego Movie) lately with low expectations. Real low. Like, way-down- on-the-ground low. But I’d heard enough about this film from my son Mark to know it would be a fun way for us to spend time on a recent day off school. We met one of Mark’s friends, the friend’s brother and their aunt and went to the show.
As stories go, it’s typical in one sense: underdog guy is selected as the chosen one who can rescue multi-nub plastic-block world from destruction. The hero is so ordinary that he doesn’t stand out from other residents of his toy metropolis, not even among his fellow ordinary construction workers. The surfer who lives down the street doesn’t even know his name. Totally bogus, dude!
His lack of exceptionalness isn’t the biggest problem, however: an evil world leader plans to freeze all of the citizens of plastic block city with a mysterious gooey, clear substance that will “glue” them in place. Worst of all, the destruction is slated for Taco Tuesday. Not Taco Tuesday!
As I allowed myself to immerse in this ocean of imagination, a dimmed light in my mind began to brighten. I saw the genius of the movie: it was every kid’s make-believe world come alive. Different characters and their associated cars, boats and spaceships were interacting with one another – like they ought to. After all, cowboys, Batman, Gandalf, and astronauts are all part of one big happy family in the universe of a child’s mind.
All these figures talked and fought and built things and solved problems together, all while moving from intergalactic space to a pirate ship to a rainbow world of happiness to New York City. This is imagination. And it was beautiful to behold.
For me, it was a time to remember. My oldest son David and I would construct these multi-dimensional habitats where dolphins and gorillas and cowboys and Revolutionary War soldiers and the Incredible Hulk dwelled. And there was a train that you could take to each little galaxy. David would leave these plastic-block creations up for weeks at a time in the play room, and we’d revisit them together, or he would imagine on his own. The creativity would spill out for hours.
My youngest Mark never got into interlocking construction bricks so much, but we have memories of a different kind, setting up battlefields using wood blocks where miniature cars, dinosaurs, stealth fighter jets, and whoever else would engage in battle till everyone was knocked over. And then we’d set them up and do it again. And again.
With my daughter Bethany, it was dolls. The narrative would start at a beach house, go to a friend’s house, make a stop at the pet salon, and end up at the amusement park. Sometimes male dolls were involved, but they were always gentlemen. They would usually affirm their desire to follow God and not get to serious too soon. Those boy dolls were good guys.
So as I beheld this movie, I was also reminded of the power of storytelling in raising children. As I recall those days, I think my kids and I were dreaming wide awake. Nighttime dreams can be this strange mix-and-match world of dinosaurs chasing me down Main Street, I escape into an ice cream store, and then I order a double dip cone from Abraham Lincoln.
But adults typically stop dreaming in the daylight. Those wild, chaotic, mystical connections that were so typical of youthful days get beat out of us by the grind of life, the stresses of work and difficult marriages, the unyielding kids’ sports schedules, and lots of other things that seem to drain the ingenuity out of us.
Is God still inventive? Think about it: He came up with the resurrection. What’s more unique than that? The God of the universe moving into my heart and living there? Phenomenal originality. Who would have expected that? Brilliant! And according to Ephesians 3:20, “[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
If we’ve found the creativity lacking in our minds and hearts, maybe it’s time to ask, once more, as in the days of youth, “Why not?” Why not ask God to expand our imaginations?
Maybe dads and moms who know Christ could ask Him to inspire the way they related to their children. Husbands and wives could pray for imagination to revitalize their friendship and love life. Employees might inquire of Jesus, “Could you help me see my job and the people I work with differently?” I wonder if these are places where God would like to inject some divine muse.
I just suspect he might want to connect the blocks and make that happen. And that would be awesome.