The word Lent means “spring.” Typically this liturgical season begins in February, during the dark, snowy, cold days of winter. Yet, as the forty days progress, we journey spiritually and, yes, even physically to a new rebirth: spring. All of creation comes to life again.
My daughter, father, and I went for a stroll around our house this afternoon. It is a beautiful, sunny day, but there is a little wind. Most days I would say, “Oh, it’s too cold to go outside”–as though we don’t own coats, hats, and mittens that would all perfectly suffice to keep us warm. Excuses, excuses.
I’m in the midst of reading the most gripping book called Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. It’s simultaneously eye-opening and disturbing because there are things I may do so naturally with our daughter, just because it’s the norm of our society today or the way I experienced things, that have the terrible side effect of impairing the incredible gift of imagination.
Imagination is so critical. To be able to transport yourself to another place or time, to envision a way things could be better, to dream of an unlimited number of “what ifs…” To contemplate what is good, what is beautiful, what is real. To imagine that this world might not be all that exists, that there might be something greater beyond the tangible, physical things around us…that maybe, just perhaps, those created elements in our world are only signposts to an even greater Good, an everlasting Truth.
At a party last weekend, three-year-old Isaac approached me with a concerned, wide-eyed look on his face. With utmost seriousness, a Dorito clenched in his hand, he stated, “The dragon hit me right here,” gesturing to side of his face. ”Oh, no!” I exclaimed. ”Where is the dragon?” Without a second’s hesitation, he pointed: the overhead fan.
What an incredible gift! How is it that, what once came so simply to us, gradually becomes so hard? When does a fan stop being a fire-breathing, scaly, ferocious dragon and become…a fan?
Perhaps, in part, it has to do with our setting. At least, that’s what I have read so far in my book.
Do you realize that, for the first time in human history, men and women spend the majority of their time indoors? That really hit me when I read it for the first time. Sure, we have the Internet, the Wii, Ipods, etc., etc. But what are we missing?
As we walked about this afternoon, we discovered a thousand little stories being told all around us: the bird chirping nearby, the little trail a mouse dug through the grass, the tree stump that would make an excellent seat or table for a tea party, the daffodils lining the side of the house. There were fluffy clouds set against a deep blue sky, just begging the viewer to call out shapes to identify them.
All this fodder for the imagination! What was the mouse looking for when he dug his trail? What kind of tree did we find, and what will its blossoms look like once they bloom? What lessons the outdoors hold for us–reminders of perseverance, of hope…that even the harshest winter does not stop the coming of new life.
Our daughter was captivated by it all. She heard the bird and promptly echoed its call with one of her own. We basked in the sun and breathed deeply the crisp, fresh air.
I want her to see the dragon. And, even more, I want her to imagine what is most beautiful, most true, most good. Faith, hope, and love–these three do require a little imagination sometimes. Looking at my neighbor and seeing the face of Christ is hard to do when your imagination has been deadened by primetime television, Youtube, and texting.
So I’ve made a resolution: spend time outdoors, even if it’s just fifteen minutes. Spring is coming; gone now is my reasoning that it’s winter and too cold for the baby to be outdoors. Bundle her up, get her out, and feed that imagination.
And she’ll teach me again, what I once knew myself–I will see the dragons, too.