Monday, May 14, 2012

Observe & Imitate

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.~ Ephesians 5:1-2, MSG

Recently, one of my children thought they would bless me when I was sick by emptying our dishwasher and reloading it.  I was pleased as punch at the initiative taken and the kindness shown.  But when I opened the reloaded dishwasher, I found myself struck by a curious thing.  The dishes were loaded in a very strange way, making it difficult to adequately fit a reasonable number of dirty dishes in the unit.  My first thought was, Hasn't this child ever observed where and how the dishes are loaded when they take them out?  My next thought was, I have some teaching to do.

It didn't take long until my mind turned to the thought that God calls us to be more observant throughout His word.  This is an acquired learning skill.  And sadly, most of us rush through life failing to observe many, many things around us.

There seem to be two basic ways we learn to observe and imitate.  The first, rather unpleasant way is by crisis demanding our attention.  For example, when we lose a job, we are forced to pay closer attention to our finances, and imitate wise money-saving techniques others use.  When a loved-one has a medical crisis, we are forced to observe new medical techniques or treatments that we are to administer at home.  By a marriage imploding, we suddenly pay attention to the way successful couples treat one another, and reflect upon where we could have done better. 

The second way we learn to observe and imitate is by having another person remind us to do so.   With a spirited, "Heads up!" a friend or instructor can call our attention to watching more closely.  This second way can be more pleasant, and is exactly what Paul is reminding the church in Ephesus to do in the passage above.  It is a true gift to have another person care enough about us to encourage us to look more mindfully at how things are being done, in order that we might replicate them.

I will tell you that my own skills of observing, then imitating have grown over time.  I think one remarkable way I developed this skill was by intently watching the numerous infusions medical staff performed on my son.  Because I carefully observed every detail of every step of their technique, it became easier to replicate it when it was my turn to perform the task.  Subsequently, I learned over the past 12 years that watching someone who is excellent at anything, and attempting to imitate it myself, is a great way to learn and grow.  It can be true of gardening, cooking, even child-rearing, and certainly in spiritual practices.

This is a gift I want to impart to my own children, both in practical and sacred ways!  I did eventually tell my helpful child to observe how the dishwasher is loaded.  I went over what was done right, and what can be approved upon.  My child thanked me for helping to make the next time at the job go better. 

Much more importantly, I want my children to, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1, GW)  I want them to see how I get to know Jesus better every day through my time alone with Him.  I want them to see the difference in my life made by the way I face my problems holding His hand.  I want them to see how God blesses my obedience, which only grows my faith more.  I want them to learn that it can be far more pleasant to observe and imitate through being admonished, rather than through being brought to their knees in crisis.

Pray:  Lord, open my eyes and ears and heart to carefully absorb all you intend for me to learn.  Help me to love and live just as You did, Jesus.

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