I wrote last week about the importance of moving the battle line from resisting porn to resisting sexual fantasy. Far from being benign, sexual fantasy is dangerous because it is where a person disconnects from reality and moves into unreality. And so sexual fantasy is both what opens the door to porn and what fuels it.
When we engage in sexual fantasy, we place illusionary images over-top real men and real women so the actors or actresses cease to be real people: women and men who used to be little girls and little boys dreaming of growing up, finding love, having a home, and making a difference in the world. Instead, through our sexual fantasy, they become something else—things to be used by our lust and then discarded.
But please don’t misunderstand me. While it is vital we cease from sexual fantasy, I do not at all mean we should cease from all fantasy. Fantasy at its best is essential to Christian living; indeed, it is essential to becoming like Christ.
Here’s what I mean:
Fantasy in its truest form points us from the illusions we see to the truths we don’t see. In other words, fantasy in its truest form points us from unreality to real reality. This kind of fantasy comes from what C.S. Lewis once called the “sanctified imagination”—in fact, this is the reason God gave us imagination. Imagination is meant to lead us to what our natural eyes cannot see. And in our fallen, deceptive world, the sanctified imagination is meant to lead us to truer truths and realer realities than our blurry, broken eyes can perceive.
This is why we are drawn to the great stories, this is why children pretend to be doctors and fire fighters and pilots and knights and princesses and dragon slayers and moms and dads. The imagination is God’s gift to us. It stokes faith in what we cannot see, it fuels hope in what has not yet come, and it leads us to step out where all we see urges us to stay put. This is what true fantasy is about.
The imagination wasn’t the enemy’s idea, it was God’s. The reason the enemy wants to enslave our imaginations in sexual fantasy, the reason he seeks to get us addicted to imaginary escapes from reality, is because he knows how powerful the imagination is to lead us into unseen realities of God and ourselves.
J.R.R. Tolkien said it this way: “At its best, the fairy story or fantasy is far from being a flight from reality; it is, rather, a flight to reality.”
Madeleine L’Engle once said that C.S. Lewis started writing his books of fantasy because his theological writing wasn’t saying enough about God.
Fantasy that holds you captive does so because it imagines reality that points away from reality.
Fantasy that sets you free does so because it imagines reality that is unseen and/or reality that has yet to come to pass.
So by all means, if you struggle with lust and porn, fantasize. Dream about where your true Home is, smell the food God is preparing, watch the Father racing to you as you come stumbling along still filthy. See Jesus on the Cross absorbing your sin into His body, and hear Him crying out, “Father, forgive him/her. They know not what they do!”
Jesus, we’ve misused our imaginations and they have become enslaved to what’s not real. Forgive us! Redeem our imaginations and sanctify them that they might fuel our faith until it becomes a bright flame leading us homeward.
This is one of the best insights we’ve seen in a long time.
One of the recurring errors I’ve made is to imagine my deepest desires as my adversaries, and my fondest dreams as inevitable traps waiting to trip me up and draw me away from God.
What I am lately realizing is that the truth is precisely the opposite of that kind of thinking.
No, Satan is the adversary. My God-given desire is my friend.
And my fondest dreams in their deepest and truest form will faithfully
lead me to, rather than away, from Him.
May God continue to work in me and in all of us, to restore the innocent joy and the sanctified power of that liberating truth.
At the dawn of this holiday season, may the sun of righteousness rise for all of us with healing in his wings, and may the light of Emmanuel shine into our darkness, transforming our prison cells of discouragement and despair into places of comfort and joy, where together we may celebrate his coming again and proclaim His release for those who are still held captive, as we once were.
Amen. —- Weber
Weber, this is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing!
Imagination as God’s gift to help us grow in faith in His yet-unseen realities — I never thought of that. Thank you, that will give much to think about in the years ahead.
Thank you for sharing that, Josh. I’ve always had trouble appreciating Madeleine L’Engle and Tolkein’s works but this all makes sense!