Written by Bryan Ruby
Once upon a time, there was a . . . Got ya! Your curiosity pulled you in faster than a coffee junkie spotting a Roasters or Starbucks sign.
Who doesn’t love a good embellished yarn? After all, we’re hard-wired with a God-given imagination. If you doubt my keyboard boldness, take a look at the Creator’s divine imagination when forming all living things on day four and five of Genesis Chapter One. God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing—and God saw that it was good.
In my writer’s mind, I see God forming a horse, and saying, “Hey, I have some left-over black and white from the pandas and skunks. Why waste it?” Voila, a zebra. Don’t get me started on green basilisk running lizards and giraffes.
Parents, you might be wondering at this point where I’m going with all this. Here it is. Develop that God-given imagination in your children and who knows what they’ll create. And dare I say, who’s lives might be touched because of it.
Without imagination, C.S. Lewis’s treasured Narnia books would’ve been left empty without Aslan and the White Witch. An IQ overachiever stated that “Without imagination, science and mathematical equations would never have existed because it helps describe an augmented world which is necessary to understand nature and its mysteries.” Albert Einstein, the king of overachievers confessed, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
And lest I forget all you sports nuts. Dick Fosbury used his imagination and skill to blow the world of competitive high jump out of the water during the 1968 Olympics. He revolutionized the high jump event with a back-first technique, now known as the Fosbury Flop. Never underestimate the power of thinking outside the box and never be afraid to flop. (Sorry) It’s called imagination.
When Jesus began his earthly ministry at the age of thirty, He knew well the power of words. But He also knew how quickly our attention can be diverted from the moment at hand to some fleeting thought or action. SQUIRREL. Enter His forty-seven combined parable/parables in the New Testament.
Our friend, Merriam-Webster, defines parable from the Latin parabola, “comparison, allegory, proverb, discourse, speech, illustration.”
And that’s exactly why Jesus used simple, ordinary, tangible illustrations and comparisons to point to spiritual truths: a misplaced coin possibly to pay for rent, a triple-A grade pearl, a beaten man rescued by an unlikely hero, building on the Rock of Ages vs the sinking sand of I will rule my own destiny, etc.
Now, I can’t speak to how imagination enters into the Mathematical and Scientific arenas, but being a fiction writer, I use it every time I sit down at my laptop to create a story. I wonder where my protagonist will go next and whether he’ll throw a rock, or throw a fit? What’s happening in his world that might lead him into a dark, weathered barn at 3:22 a.m. or to a 1941 sun-drenched meadow below Mount Rushmore. And all of this, because of God’s gift of imagination.
Today, I want to give you four ideas on how to develop creativity and imagination in your kids using parables as a spring-board.
1. The Parable Chain
This is a great game for the car while on vacation after the kids have had three juice boxes or having a kicked-back family evening. One player starts a fictional story and at a certain point, turns it over to the next player who continues the story with his/her imaginative twist. Use a small object (pillow) and toss it to the next player you choose. If it’s timed, the story is over at the allotted time. Make sure and don’t be Dad and Mom Judgy Much. This is a fun exercise to develop your kid’s imagination and not to create The Eleventh Commandment.
Connie and Pete, two members of Bethel Christian Writers Group played the Parable Game a couple of months ago at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Who knew they’d have to wait for seven-and-a-half-hours to get their first Covid vaccine? (Shameless commercial warning. If you’re a closet writer or interested in honing your gift for publication, come check out BCWG—an in-house, faith-based, and yes, enjoyable critique group) email@example.com
2. Act out a parable
Take one of Jesus’ parables (could be drawn from a hat or chosen) and create a simple skit or go all out and do a three-piece act worthy of an Academy Award. A musical with dancing might be a stretch, but hey, put on those taps and tutus. Once again, the goal is to open up your kid’s God-given, hard-wired, creative imaginations. Not to mention great family memories and photo ops.
3. Have a YouTube parable night
Here’s the easiest so far. It only took a minute after googling YouTube parables to find some great ones. Wonderful for visual and auditory learners. Of course, parents would want to screen these ahead of time. Make some popcorn and if you’re lucky enough, you might find a VeggieTales parable episode. They’re hilarious. Take time after to review the moral of the story and see if Bob and Larry got it right.
4. Write their own parables
I would be seriously remiss as a writer if I didn’t use this opportunity to encourage you to have your kids turn off Fortnite or their favorite video game, and write a real story or one about their own made-up world. Remember, a parable is nothing more than a story with a moral. Give them a pen and paper and some objects from around the house: a light bulb, a thermometer, some dog or cat food, a measuring cup, etc. Have them write a short story using the items and use family time to share their creation.
Parents, help your children develop their imaginations. Be cheerleaders. Applaud them. Who knows, an Aslan or a Frodo Baggins, a theory of quantum mechanics, or a Fosbury Flop might be waiting for your boy or girl to discover them.
Once upon a time, there was a . . .