Tonight my two “twinnies” (Davy 5 with Down Syndrome and Daniel 2) found a skipping rope and decided they were going to skip. I watched Davy as he jumped up and down, up and down, flicking the rope around in front of him. Then Daniel had a go. His method was to hold the rope and run around and around in circles. He was imitating Davy and his skipping was even further from the real thing than Davy’s!
They carried on for a while and as I watched them I began to ponder. I thought about how often Davy learns by imitating. He watches people and later he’ll have a go himself. He sits on the couch like the ‘Big Kids’ and turns the pages of chapter books. He grabs a pencil and ‘writes a letter’ like Hannah. He finds a chair and sits in the sun with Dad. Sometimes this approach works well but the trouble with it is that he doesn’t always understand the point of what he is doing.
The skipping is one example of this. He watched the skipping and thought the point was to jump and wave his arms around a lot. He missed the real point, which is to jump over the rope, finding the rhythm and keeping going.
As I watched and pondered, I wondered how often we do this as Christians. We think we are doing all the right things. After all, we’ve read the book, we’ve watched the experts, we’re imitating all the right actions. But we miss the point. God doesn’t want us “doing all the right actions”. He wants us to walk with Him. He wants us to depend on Him, to learn from Him.
Now, I’m not implying that imitating is all wrong. Paul and other NT writers encourage us to be imitators. In fact they go so far as to say to imitate them!
- 1 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
- Hebrews 6:12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
The Writer to the Hebrews:
- Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
But the context of this was to imitate them, imitating God. So we have to be very careful to know who God is, what His character is like. We have to make sure we understand the point of their actions in the context of a relationship with God. Just like little Daniel, if we try to imitate an imitator we may find ourselves getting further and further away from the real thing, without even realising it.
Paul encourages us therefore:
- Ephesians 5:11Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children..
- Thessalonians 1:6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (my emphasis)
As I look to other believers I’m challenged again to turn to the Lord and ask for His help to see what the true purpose of their actions are. I’m challenged to make sure I am imitating their imitation of the Lord, and not just jumping up and down, or going round and round.