My two year old son is in that wonderful/horrible stage where he imitates everyone around him. His favorite muse to copy is his four year old brother who takes great satisfaction in teaching his baby brother all the ways of life. If the four year old comes running into the room yelling and then strikes a karate pose, you can bet that about thirty seconds later the two year old will also come running in yelling, striking a pose. It can be a real blessing, like tonight, when all my children were thanking their Grandma for their supper and the two year old, hearing this, also chimed in with a garbled, “Thank you Grandma for the good food!” It can be a curse when the four year old throws a tantrum and says “NO!” and the two year old decides he should also yell “NO!” It’s amusing, but it’s also just an amazing way that God made children, to learn by imitating those around them.
The question is, at what stage should we stop imitating the people around us? The desire to imitate seems to be deeply ingrained. I still find myself defaulting to “imitation status” when I have big decisions to make in my life. (We can’t become nomads, it’s just not done!). Or when I’m contemplating new ideas (I don’t belong to that political party, so there’s no way I can get behind that idea!). Or perhaps when I’m making parenting decisions (That really popular parenting book says this is the way to do it!). I find it especially hard when it comes to spiritual matters. There are so many voices out there claiming to know the truth. There are so many people who take a verse from the Bible and just run with it, creating an entire new way of thinking from just one verse or passage. How do I discern who is handling scripture correctly?
There are two scriptures that I think are helpful in the whole arena of imitation. The first is Ephesians 5:1 (ESV)
“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.”
Who should we be copying? Jesus. And if our actions are not loving and sacrificial, putting others ahead of ourselves, then we probably aren’t imitating too well.
The other verse that is really helpful is James 1:5 (ESV) that says,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
In the end there is no pat answer for who to trust, who to imitate, who to listen to, when to branch out on your own completely, with no regard for the thoughts or opinions of those around you. There is no way to know, case by case, how to act. We need wisdom. We need God’s wisdom. And amazingly, he says, just ask me, I’ll give you all the wisdom you need! (Of course, the next 3 verses remind you to ask with faith, no doubting!). I am so thankful for God’s wisdom. I have asked repeatedly for this wisdom, and God has not let me down. This is my prayer for my children. That God would give them wisdom. Not just wisdom for a particular situation, but the wisdom to even remember to ask for help in the first place. Wisdom to know when to follow and when to strike out on their own. Wisdom to remember that they are supposed to be imitating Jesus, not their peer group. That is the goal for my children. That they would go from toddling around in their diapers, copying the antics of their siblings, to copying Jesus, relying on his wisdom as they make their way through this life.
Lord, may it be so!