A song popularized long ago by Dean Martin has the lines,
Try standing on a corner, watching all the girls go by.
You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking,
Or for that wooed look in your eye.
True, you won’t go to jail for mentally ravishing those girls, but you may go to a worse place.
A God-given Talent
We human beings, in contrast to animals, are the species with a highly developed ability to think, to imagine, and to visualize. We have the amazing God-given talent to picture in our mind something that doesn’t yet exist, to mentally create situations that have not happened.
God’s gifts are perfect and meant for our good. But Satan seeks to pervert these good gifts. He tempts people to misuse every good thing God provides. For instance, God gave us the capacity to use words to speak the truth and to encourage, but Satan turns that to lying and cursing.
Nowhere is that clearer than in the use of our imagination. Every kind deed, every self-sacrificing action anyone has ever done on earth, started as a thought in someone’s head. So did every evil, selfish deed.
The Power of Imagination
Jesus, knowing the power of imagination, warned his male hearers to stop looking at women and imagine having sex with them. “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he said. And He could have added, “If you keep on thinking that way, you will eventually commit the actual, physical act with her or someone like her.”
Over time, we human beings tend to accomplish the things we think about imaginatively. The stronger and more emotionally we respond to our focused thinking and visualizing, the surer the eventual outcome will match our mental picture.
Researchers showed that our imagination is even stronger than our will. They drew a vertical and a horizontal line on a square sheet of paper dividing it into four equal squares. They asked each subject to hold one end of a half-metre long piece of string with a small weight at the bottom, extend their arm and firmly commit to holding the weight directly above the intersected lines in the centre of the paper.
The researcher then told him, “Close your eyes while holding the weight steadily over the intersection, but imagine it is swinging back and forth from left to right.”
In nearly every case, the weight would soon start to swing from left to right.
Marriage as an Example
Imagining and fantasizing overrides firm decisions and commitment. Marriage is an excellent example. A couple will make a firm decision to be faithful to each other and make a public commitment during their wedding ceremony. But if either of those spouses consistently fantasizes about being intimate with other people, that marriage is doomed. Over time, the tendency is for that fantasy to become real. The poet Emerson was right when he said, “People are what they think about all day long.”
So, what should you and I think about? Here’s the apostle Paul’s advice: “Whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil. 4:8.
Reinforce Commitment with Imagination
My wife and I committed to serve the Canela people of Brazil by translating the Word of God for them. We then reinforced that commitment by using our God-given imagination as for over twenty years, we mentally pictured Canela villagers reading the Bible in their own language and applying its truths to their lives. Decades later, what we had consistently imagined so strongly became a reality as Canelas read the Scriptures and started cleaning up the negative, destructive and messy things that Satan had introduced into their culture.
To build enduring, satisfying marriages, both spouses need to commit to spending the rest of their lives with each other. That is a given. But how many of us married folk commit every day to fantasize, dream, and imagine intimacy only with each other?
And do we keep that commitment even when we are standing on a corner and happen to see an attractive person of the opposite sex going by?