Imaginary Yet Real: How Lord of the Rings Helped Guard My Mind by Megan Schaulis

Imaginary Yet Real: How Lord of the Rings Helped Guard My Mind

Did you know your imagination can be a weapon? Read on to hear how the Lord of the Rings taught me how to wield my imagination to protect my heart and guard my mind.

Hey there, Frodo

The year was 2002 and, like many teenagers, I was obsessing over all things Middle Earth. The groundbreaking movie The Fellowship of the Ring had just come out and I couldn’t get enough. I saw that three-hour movie seven times in the theater.

Seven. Times.

Fast forward to present day, and I’ve just finished watching the trilogy for the first time in more than a decade. In addition to rekindling my love for bell sleeves *sigh* this viewing reminded me of the powerful way these stories touched my imagination when I was a nerdy high schooler.

My night guards

In those days, I was struggling with a major bout of depression and anxiety. Whenever my mind had time to wander, trouble stirred, so naturally lying in bed at night could get rough.

One night, probably after one of those seven theater viewings, I finally put my imagination to work. I pictured Gandalf, Aragorn, and Legolas standing in a back-to-back triangle and hovering above my bed. They could see in every direction. They were well armed and well able to battle the foes that disturbed my peace.

Lord of the Rings movie, Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf
Legolas, Aragorn, and Gandalf from the Peter Jackson trilogy

For the first time, I used my imagination to defend myself.

The tool of imagination

Somewhere between our days of playing dress-up and receiving diplomas, most of us equate imaginary with not real or not important. We draw a line between our thoughts and reality. We might even make an effort to focus more on the physical, natural, “real” world and purposely leave the fantasies behind. We call it maturing.

But what if I told you your imagination has a very grown-up job to do, and, chances are, no one has trained you how to use it properly.

These days, my imagination is one of my most powerful tools—and not just in writing. I imagined ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes months before my daughter was born. I imagined a house with room to host friends and family when we didn’t even have space for a table. I imagined credit cards paid in full when that seemed impossible. All of those exist today.

Thinking beyond reality

I’ve also imagined things that won’t exist in this world. I’ve pictured myself waltzing with Jesus, seen ribbons and butterflies following me when I enter a room, and thought of oil pouring over my hair as I worship. When I pray for people, I picture gold running through their veins, coating their nervous systems, or flooding their organs. 

These aren’t things I expect to experience in “the real world,” but they are very real and they’ve saved my sanity more than once.

Just as significantly, there are things I do not let myself imagine. Not once did I picture an unhealthy baby. Never do I let my mind wander to sickness or accidents or lack. If the thought of a car wreck, a bankrupt business, or…I don’t even want to create examples. When that stuff invades my mind, I immediately reject it. “Nope. That’s not happening. Return to sender.”

What are you imagining today? What picture is the Lord painting in your mind? What thoughts do you need to evict? If you need a place to start, feel free to picture those dashing fictional heroes as your personal bodyguards.

Photo from Unsplash