This morning I decided I would read a few verses from Ephesians chapter 5 and ponder over them. Verse one struck me and got me to thinking more deeply about it than I may have ever before: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. (Eph. 5:1)
Relatively well known verse amongst Christians, I'm guessing, and seemingly simple, right? Maybe it is just me. But this verse seemed to open up to me in an entirely new light today. Here are some of my thoughts I was able to grasp along the way...... The use of the word "imitator." According to Merriam-Webster dictionary online, there are six "sub-definitions" if you will of this word. The last two seemed to make the most sense, however, when seen through the lenses of scripture and of what I immediately began thinking as I read verse one today. The definitions of which I make reference are: the quality of an object in possessing some of the nature or attributes of a transcendent idea; the assumption of behavior assumed in other individuals.
First off, is it just me or has anyone else ever wondered why the word "imitators" is used in this verse of scripture? I mean in light of the fact that God gave us freedom of choice ("free will") and in light of the (seeming) fact that we are really not typically encouraged to just imitate behavior but to be genuine, it seems odd. Are we really supposed to just be "copycats"? Naturally I took this verse at face value and knew that it meant I was supposed to attempt to always mold my character after God. However, the word "imitators" still nagged lightly at the back of my mind. At least, until I started thinking about it today. I began to think about my little son. He is a young toddler, so he has begun to imitate things my husband and I say or do with greater frequency and even accuracy than he did as little as a month or two ago. Words, facial expressions, emotional reactions (excitement or frustration!) and physical gestures all are subjected to what he observes in us. He is an imitator of us as (our) dear child. WOW. Does anyone else get a little shiver when they think about this?
So today, I thought about how we as children of God are encouraged to assume "the quality of an object in possessing some of the nature or attributes of a transcendent idea," or as I understand it in this case, our Heavenly Father. We are to possess some of his nature and his attributes. Makes sense, right? That was pretty much how I always viewed this verse. The difference is today, I also thought about the second definition in light of being a parent and seeing it in "real life," a wonderful analogy right before my eyes, "the assumption of behavior played out by other individuals." I am to imitate God just like my son imitates me. At first, I started with a clean slate. I was an open book, a blank page, I knew neither right nor wrong or the better way of doing or being. But I had a Heavenly Father who did. I had to imitate. I had to imitate God's response toward me as I responded back to him and then I had to learn to carry over that imitation in how I respond to others. I had to imitate God in how I make decisions in order to make them wisely. I had to imitate God in order to be his hands and his feet in this world. I would never have known how to be a Christian and how to follow God if I did not first imitate God as a dear child. I still imitate God as his dear child. This imitation to me is the essence of hands-on learning. In doing I am becoming. It is actually pretty amazing how it works, isn't it?
All to say that today, a new light was shed for me I believe by my Heavenly Father whose love for me knows now bounds. I found that "imitation" does not have to be lacking authenticity. Rather, it is for the Christian, the dear child of God, a potent tool in transforming myself into the image of Christ, day by day. I am so thankful that I have been given the gift of not having to just muddle around in the dark, trying to find my way and behave as I (think) I should or say what I (think) I should say or think how I (think!) I should. I have a loving father who allows and in fact encourages me to imitate him, just like my little toddler imitates me and learns and grows each time he does.