Tuesday, June 29, 2004

What If We Asked the Imagineers' Question? (Another Disney World Reflection)

When looking for a new and better way of doing things, what’s the question we can ask that will unlock our creativity?

How about when we’re confronted with a nettlesome problem?

Last week, while visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, I spent some time window-shopping at Downtown Disney, a fantastic collection of shops, restaurants, and theaters. One of the shops specializes in selling Disney animation art: painted scenes from movies, numbered posters based on various animated features and characters, and other items. Being a book lover, though, I was naturally drawn to its books about Walt Disney and Disney’s animated art.

I leafed through one book produced by Disney’s “imagineers." The imagineers are that creative band of Disney “cast members” who spawn an array of innovative animation techniques, intriguing theme park attractions, and fetching resort motifs.

One passage in the book really struck me. It said that the most important question the imagineers ask is, “What if...?”

As I read that, I reflected that probably every positive event in history started by asking that question.

Galileo must have asked, “What if my observations are true, that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around?”

The Wright Brothers, toiling away with their wind tunnel experiments probably asked, “What if a wing with the shape of a teardrop will give a flying machine the lift it needs to take flight?”

Martin Luther must have asked, “What if the Church is wrong and the Bible is right, that human beings don’t have to earn or buy an everlasting relationship with God? What if a relationship with God comes to human beings as the Bible says it does, as a gift to us when we turn from sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness and life?”

“What if...?” is a powerful question and it rarely gets asked. Unfortunately, most of us are frightened to ask it. We’re stuck in our comfortable ruts. But, what if, in our personal lives, we asked that question more often?

What if the married couple stuck in a stalemate of mutual inattentiveness and resentment asked, “What if we wanted to make our marriage what God intended it to be? What would it take?”

What if parents, aware of how little time they spend with their kids and of the need to provide guidance for living to their children began to ask, “What if I wanted to become a Cliff and Claire Huxtable, Ward and June Cleaver kind of parent? How would we do that?”

What if suburbanites, fed up with the sprawl and lack of community they experience in their lives, asked, “What if we wanted to create a sense of place and togetherness here where we live?”

What if ordinary Americans, concerned about the perception of our country that seems to exist globally, decided to find creative ways to reach out to other nations and show what America is really all about?”

For the follower of Jesus Christ, it may be a sin when we fail to ask, “What if...?” God, after all, wants us to use our brains to improve life for ourselves and for others. In Genesis, God tells the human race:

“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of the Earth!” (Genesis 1:26-27, The Message translation)

This isn’t a license to lives spent in comfortable ruts. It’s a mandate to ask, “What if...” and to see and enact new possibilities.

In fact, it’s a mandate to see and enact what others might call impossible. As Dr. Gerald Mann frequently points out, there isn’t a positive achievement in the history of the world that wasn’t at first thought to be impossible.

Jesus says that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26). He also says that when we ask in His Name, He can make good things happen (John 14:13). It only takes people willing to ask, “What if...?” and to enlist the help of God. To God, impossibilities are mere impediments.

Every human being has a call to be an imagineer of the spirit! What if we all asked God to help us become our best and most positively achieving selves? The possibilities are endless!

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