By Sharon K. Perkins
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” ~ Ephesians 5:1
It was the stuff of which mothers’ nightmares are made.
As I walked into my children’s bathroom to check on my three-year-old in the tub, I was charmed and alarmed at the sight of this tiny girl, leg propped up on the side of the tub, calmly shaving her legs with her older sister’s safety razor. After peeling myself off the ceiling, I checked for blood, put the razor out of reach, and marveled at young children’s propensity for imitation.
What is imitation?
The word “imitation” tends to carry a negative connotation: think of “imitation ice cream,” “imitation leather,” and “imitation gemstones”—none of which are as good as the “real thing.” But in the language of art and literature, an “imitation” denotes the artist’s vision and creation of something in its purest, most ideal form. So my young daughter playfully imitates her older sister because she envisions herself not as she is but as she hopes to be.
From childlike play to a hopeless task
How and when did imitation change from the natural, playful activity of childhood to an angst-ridden behavior of adulthood? When St. Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,” our unsuccessful attempts to imitate the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world bring us ultimately to despair. But I believe that, just as I am delighted with my children’s imperfect but earnest attempts to imitate good adult behavior, God is delighted with my childlike efforts. I have been given God’s own Spirit to provide me with all the vision, hope, and perseverance I need and the promises of Scripture to reassure me. I have the example of the saints who have gone before me with the same fears and imperfections. Imitators of God par excellence, they are venerated not as second-rate counterfeits but as the genuine article.
Dear Lord, please show me how to imitate you in the free, loving way that children do. Please help me know that you delight in me, your beloved child.
Call to Action
Observe a child (your own or someone else’s) playfully imitating a grown-up activity. Notice your delight in watching their carefree play and think of God watching you in the same delighted way.
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