Leave the Campfire

By Mark D. Roberts

June 5, 2023

Imagination: Redeemed and Redemptive

Scripture — Isaiah 41:10 (NRSV)

Do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.


Fear can bind up our imaginations. Fear of the unknown, of the disapproval of others, of what we cannot control ties down our creative capacity. But knowing that God is with us sets us free from fear. Thus our confidence in God’s presence unleashes our imaginations.

This devotion is part of the series, Imagination: Redeemed and Redemptive.


If you’ve ever been camping, you know the joy of a campfire. As you’re sitting out in a dark forest on a cool evening, perhaps hearing unfamiliar animal noises fill the air, it’s wonderful to feel the warmth of the fire, listen to its crackling, and marvel at the beauty of the flames as they dance before your eyes. Plus, campfires almost always draw a group of friends or family members who share the physical and emotional warmth generated by the fire. Without fearing what’s out there in the darkness, you enjoy the company of loved ones as you tell stories and eat s’mores.

But, according to Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon in their book Imagination First, you need to “Leave the Campfire” (p. 47). They use the metaphor of the campfire to signify safety, especially the safety of an approving community of people. We don’t want to leave what is familiar because we are afraid of what’s “out there,” including the criticisms of those who sit around the campfire with us.

Fear of the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the unpredictable will keep us from exercising our imaginations. As Liu and Noppe-Brandon put it bluntly, “Fear kills imagination” (p. 47). Yet their solution to the problem of fear isn’t pretending we are unafraid. Rather, they write, “And fear is always with us. Pretending it doesn’t exist might work in a pinch, but eventually it returns. Learning to name, face, grapple with our fears: this is the start of the art of everything” (p. 47).

The Bible repeatedly acknowledges the presence of fear. Not only do we read stories of people being afraid, but also we are regularly urged to not be afraid. Why? Because fear is a natural response to things that are new, threatening, dangerous, and unpredictable. Yet we who know the Lord can set fear aside.

Scripture doesn’t simply tell us to not be afraid and leave it at that. The Bible also gives us a reason for setting aside fear. We see this, for example, in Isaiah 41:10. There, God says through the prophet, “[D]o not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” We don’t get rid of fear by rationalization or by tapping into our own capabilities. Rather, we are able to “fear not” because of God’s presence in our lives. God is the one who will strengthen us, help us, and uphold us. Therefore, we can abolish fear from our hearts as we trust God with everything.

If Liu and Noppe-Brandon are correct about fear and imagination, then our trust in God will not only chase away our fears. It will also unleash our imaginations. We’ll be able to think new thoughts and try new things because of our confidence in God’s presence and provision. We’ll know that if we fail, God will be there to heal and restore. Moreover, we will not fear the disapproval of the “campfire crowd” because we know God’s love for us.

Though I agree in part with what Liu and Noppe-Brandon say about leaving the campfire, I’d want to qualify their advice. It seems to me that we need “campfire times” in order to have the courage to “leave the campfire.” We need times of connection with others, times of sharing stories, food, and fellowship. These times can strengthen and prepare us for being alone “out there.” Then, when we decide to leave the campfire, we do so with the support of our fellow “campfire-ees.” Often, in fact, we’ll venture away from the campfire along with others, sharing together in the experience of unleashing our imaginations. When Scripture tells us to “fear not,” this is meant for a community of people who trust in God, not just individuals.

Fear can bind up our imaginations. Fear of the unknown, of the disapproval of others, of what we cannot control ties down our creative capacity. But knowing that God is with us and ready to help us sets us free from fear. Thus our confidence in God’s presence and strength unleashes our imaginations.


How would you describe your experience of fear?

How would you describe your experience of God’s presence?

If you were confident that God is present with you to strengthen you, how might this give you freedom in how you think and live?


Throughout this day (or tomorrow if you’re reading this devotion in the evening) remind yourself that God is with you.


Gracious God, thank you for the promise of Isaiah 41:10. Though given at first to the people of Israel, today we hear this promise as if it was given to us.

Thank you for being with us. Thank you for being our God. Thank you for strengthening us. Thank you for helping us. Thank you for holding us up.

Because you are present and powerful to help, may I live this day without fear. As I do, may I be free to use my imagination for good. Amen.

Banner image by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Trust God.

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Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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