Husband & Wife Articles


 

Baptizing Imagination

When you read to your children, you open new worlds

By Brandon Vogt

One day while waiting at a train station, a young atheist wandered over to a bookrack. He browsed the selections, picked up a small fairy tale on a whim, then sat down and began reading. He was immediately hit with odd sensations. It felt like a waterfall had engulfed him. Suddenly his mind was washed with wonder and life. And all of his boredom and cynicism felt as if they were being wiped away.

Some years later the young man marked the event as his “baptism of imagination.” This one book — a fantasy story — ignited his wonder and forever changed his view of the world. A few years later, the young man renounced his atheistic views and became a devout Christian.

Most of us can probably relate to the great power of stories. From our boyhood we remember being drawn into tales of pirates and knights, soldiers and cowboys. Most of us can still recall the great adventures, enchanting mysteries, and exciting journeys that captivated us as children.

Imagination is powerful. It pulls us into the world of a well-told tale, moving us from the sidelines and into the action ourselves. We become the courageous hero, the devoted friend, and the curious explorer. With the fictional characters, we journey through mystical lands, embark on risky voyages, and battle for the sake of all good.

But today, many children have lost this gift. Instead of developing their own imagination, children are drawn to computer screens and video games which do all the imagining for them. Despite all of our entertainment options, kids are more bored, more cynical, and less imaginative than ever before.

How do we re-enchant their minds and baptize their imaginations? One way is to introduce them to epic stories like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. These stories don’t just entertain us. They actually condition our children to live a different way. They allow kids to believe that anything is possible and the stories train them in heroic virtue.

When children imagine Frodo trekking through the dark lands of Mordor, fending off evil to destroy the ring, courage swells within them. They find it easier to conquer the much smaller battles of their own day.

When Aslan sacrifices himself for the sake of his friends, our kids become much quicker to embrace sacrificial love. And, even better, they acquire a keener understanding of Christ.

We can also enliven our children’s imagination by helping them to become intrigued by the mundane things of the world. The jovial writer G.K. Chesterton once said, “The function of imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange; not so much to make wonders facts as to make facts wonders.”

Chesterton once had a friend with a particularly difficult drawer. Every time he’d try to open it, the drawer would jam and the man would become enraged. So Chesterton proposed that his friend look at the situation in a completely different way. What if you saw your battle with the drawer as pulling a lifeboat out of the sea or roping a fallen friend off the side of a cliff? From then on the friend discovered that his battles with the drawer were some of the most exciting moments of his day.

This gift of imagination is one of the greatest we dads can give to our children. It’s about more than fending off boredom. It’s about helping our children peel back the blinders that prevent them from seeing the world in all its magic, wonder and splendor.

It’s about teaching them to see a caterpillar with the same shock as a sea serpent. It’s about showing them how stones are as captivating as stars, how babies are as glorious as angels.

Only then will our children experience the sensations of our man at the bookrack, the one whose mind was awash with wonder. That man would later be known around the world as C.S. Lewis, one of the most famous writers of the 20th century. His Chronicles of Narnia have since been enjoyed by millions of children and baptized many imaginations.

So read to your children. Fill their heads with wonder. Wash their minds with fantasy and whim. It’s not just their soul that needs baptizing but their imaginations, too.

Brandon Vogt, who blogs at ThinVeil.net, is the author of The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet (Our Sunday Visitor). He and his wife live with their two children (and one soon to be born) in Casselberry, Florida.