Imagination
Posted on February 5, 2018

With credit to Pastor David Sumrall of the Cathedral of Praise in Manila, Philippines, I want to share with you a thought I got from him. He did an online devotional last month from Genesis chapter 2. As you recall, chapters 1 and 2 of the Bible’s first book offer slightly different renditions of The Creation Story. In chapter 1, God forms males and females simultaneously. In chapter 2, however, God forms man first, observes for a while, and basically says, “I can improve on that” and so fashions woman. Anyway, in chapter 2 we read the verse, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground....” A few verses later the author writes, “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and bird of the air....” What jumps out at you from those two verses? God used the same resource (dirt from the earth) to create the full, wide array of living creatures (cats and cows, eagles and elephants, foxes and frogs, hedgehogs and humans).

In Genesis 2, God uses what God has on hand to do remarkable things. God uses dirt – just dirt – and creates a miracle with it. In telling the story, Sumrall pointed out that we are very rarely limited by our resources. Instead, he argued, we are limited by our imagination. It’s not “What do I have?,” or “What do I lack?,” but rather, “What am I going to do with it?”

Are you familiar with the name Lewis Latimer? During Black History Month (and every other month, for that matter), his should be a name we lift up with gratitude. Who invented the incandescent light bulb? Thomas Edison. Who, however, invented the carbon filament that goes inside a light bulb and makes it glow? An African American named Lewis Latimer who worked with Edison on the project. Who invented the telephone? Alexander Graham Bell. Who, however, crafted the patent design to make it practical for use? Lewis Latimer. Who designed railroad car bathrooms that made them convenient for travelers? Who invented the original air conditioning unit? Yep, Latimer on both counts.

Lewis Latimer, by the way, had no formal training in science. He possessed natural intellect, but no educational training in the field. Furthermore, his dream was not actually to become an inventor. His dream, in the 1800s, was to advance the plight of people of color who were still suffering the after-effects of slavery. He believed freedom without opportunity would keep people economically enslaved. And he saw technology as the door to equal economic opportunity. So, Latimer assessed what he had: a job that gave him exposure to Hiram Maxim and his theories of light, an acquaintance with Bell and Edison, some ideas about projects those two inventors were working on, and a noble dream. Note that none of his resources were actually monetary. But Latimer used his imagination to consider how he might use all the things he did have at his disposal to make his dream come true. Next time you turn on the lights and pick up your phone in an air-conditioned apartment, remember that.

So, what’s your dream? And if you are not energetically pursuing it, what’s standing in the way? A lack of resources? No. You have resources. We all do. They may not be monetary, but we have resources. What ordinarily stands in the way of people and the fulfillment of their dreams is a lack of imagination. God had dirt, but look what God did with it. Latimer did not have great financial abilities, plus he was Black in a day when opportunities were intentionally denied to his race. But he took note of the resources that were his and used his imagination to do the impossible.

So, here’s the takeaway for you in your own personal life: Don’t focus on what you lack. Focus on what you have. Don’t focus on “Why I can’t.” Focus on “How I will.” Don’t focus on your doubts. Focus on your dreams. Life that is deeper and richer than you previously dreamed is attainable by those who faithfully and creatively use their imagination.

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