Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. .. now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. ~Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10
Imitation. The thought of it fills me with longing on the one hand and dread on the other.
When I see it with my children, it often delights me because for my child to imitate, they have studied, observed, internalized and then pulled back out that desirable action. My 10 year old yelled my name yesterday in such a tone of voice that my eldest son and I thought he was very hurt. We both rushed to him, expecting to see blood/tears, something. Instead there stood a grinning, eyes sparkling, proud young man holding a fly up as a trophy, “Look! I killed my first fly just like Daddy does!” And he proceeded to explain how he took every step his daddy ever does in order to kill this fly with only a flick of his hand. Gross but a somehow a manly achievement!
My almost 2 year old studies everything his daddy does to get ready in the morning. We have to now hide all of Troy’s things because he will try to act out what he has seen (dangerous with qtips and razors!) He loves to tromp through the house in Troy’s shoes and daily seeks to wear Daddy’s socks all day long. Hats are a special trophy but only Daddy’s favorite one.
I admit when I realize how much observation I am under in any given day, it is bone wearying. Someone is always asking me why I am doing something or just watching the way I do something to make sure I do it the same way I have before. I am always amazed at the “you always” and “you never” comments that are attributed to actions/things that I didn’t know I had set patterns for. But my children do, because they observe and study.
God does not possess undesirable attributes, there is nothing in Him I should avoid imitating as there is in me. And He never tires of displaying Himself, teaching me more and more deeply about His attributes. But do I study Him, experience time with Him that I know His way, His actions, His love? or do I do it my way?
In our “use it quickly, buy a lot” culture, imitation often has a cheap, inferior connotation. The object is knowingly inferior and lacking something but affordable so as to make it mass marketable. It’s easily produced. We can carry this false copying concept into Christianity with a list of behaviors that everyone would agree makes a “good Christian,” and don’t get me started on the list for a good mom. Kindness, goodness, grace giver, patience, forgiving, and then the unwritten list for motherhood. The list can be endless and paralyzing. And I think we can see this false or cheap copying of a list of behaviors for what it is – hypocritical and self promoting.
But when I look at Jesus Christ, the list falls away.
My childlike toddling after Jesus increases my understanding of His Gospel to me and will fuel my imitation of Him. But my imitation can’t be sourced by me, my abilities or temperament. As we walk as children of light, we are light in the Lord. When Paul tells me to walk as a child of light with fruit, he is not leaving all that he has presented before this passage in Ephesians. But sometimes I will read these verses and forget this. I will see an imperative sentence and immediately add it to my list of cheap, me driven imitation. But I am in Christ Jesus, with access to the Father through the Spirit, and my true imitation will be Spirit driven. It will be the Holy Spirit in me replacing my old self with His new self, day by day, little by little, a laying down of me spurred on by my growing love of Him that comes through time with Him.
When I begin to follow Him around, observe Him, watch His interactions, experience His love and forgiveness, my heart will long and yearn to be more like Him. My little man didn’t claim an original fly killing technique, yet he was thrilled to have done it just the way he had seen it done countless times before. Imitation is really a reflection of the original. And in the case of us in the world as His dearly loved children, we are to be the clear reflection of God’s love. There is no claim of originality; imitation points to the Original.