“Pure” Imagination?

Gene Wilder as “Willy Wonka”

It is an awesome movie in so many ways. The song, “Pure Imagination” certainly tops the list of reasons. But I wonder what the composers (Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley) meant by “pure”. Did they mean imagination and nothing BUT imagination? or did they mean that the imagination itself was untainted, uncontaminated?

If the first, then it would be imagination only with no knowledge, no instinct, no data, no existing information. If the second, it would be imagination which does not contain any bias, any preconceived ideas or outline; something wholly from within. I doubt either state of “imagining” is actually possible, but I’m intrigued by the second one as I continue to dig through the Sermon on the Mount.

Imagine Jesus’ voice…

I found myself (like I often do) imagining the setting, the sounds, colors and smells of the scene: Jesus, with his disciples sitting around him, the larger crowd standing just beyond them, and he, delivering the greatest moral teaching the world has ever known. It’s a great exercise to imagine the setting of a passage of scripture. It’s a practice that goes back centuries. As I imagined myself sitting at Jesus’ feet, I heard the familiar words about not worrying (Matthew 6:30)…but I heard Jesus voice differently than I had ever imagined it before…

“…will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

I had always imagined his voice as mildly critical. Slightly annoyed. Exasperated even. In my imagination, Jesus is calling me a name…like…”will he not much more clothe you-dummy?” He always had a shadow on his face and his arms were crossed…like my mom when she was mad. (To be clear…My Mom never called me names!)

I realized I had been running Jesus’ words though my “impure” imagination. As I heard his voice, I attached all the qualities to it that my imagination created. Frustration, disappointment, impatience…things that are not explicit in the text. How many words from The Master have I run through my clogged and dirty imagination, only to have them come out the other end twisted and polluted? How many words from Paul the Apostle, or The Prophets have become bent out of shape after having been squeezed through the memory of some other authority figure? A disapproving teacher, a cruel coach, an abusive parent or a codependent lover?

Imaginations will turn on you…like Willy Wonka

Imaginations are great. I think they are part of the image of God we all carry. But they are dangerous and fickle too. Lke a poorly trained lion they can turn on you in a instant. They are kind of unpredictable, sometimes delivering flashes of genius (Eureka! moments) and sometimes failing us miserably. (writer’s block, even paranoia)

But this time as I read Matthew 6 (I honestly have no idea why this time was different) I heard him with a loving, encouraging tone – “you of little faith”. I heard the phrase as a diminutive: “my dear little one of faith” You…the one trying SO hard!” This time his voice was gentle, his features soft and his posture open.

Faith like a mustard seed

Then I recalled what he told his disciples later in chapter 17 of Matthew: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” In other words, a teeny little bit of faith is commendable. It’s not to say that more faith isn’t good…it’s to say that even a little faith is worthy of praise!

In Mark chapter 8, when the disciples wring their hands over trying the feed a huge crowd, Jesus response was “How many loaves do you have?” (verse 5) Jesus begins with what we bring and does not condemn us for it. He works with what we’ve got and seeks to expand upon it…not shame us.

Little Chef

Think about a child taking on some grown-up endeavor for the first time. For example, cooking an egg. Maybe there’s a little spillage on the burner, some shell in the pan…but by golly, she serves up a perfectly edible scrambled egg! When the child begins to doubt herself, and point out her own failings, a loving parent is going to say something like, “Hey! Don’t you worry about those things, My Little Chef! With my help, you will do much more than this!”

Bring Him the faith you have today. He’s not ashamed.


57 year old husband of 31 years, father of two, drumming Gardner.