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Posts Tagged ‘imitating others’

We were blowing bubbles together in the grounds of our village, our youngest granddaughter and I, when she announced she wanted to dance for me. She is only four and has never learnt ballet—but that did not deter her. With a wonderfully professional air, she slowly moved her hands and arms around her head, caressing her face and gazing up at me with such a soulful expression that I was hard-pressed not to laugh. Some interesting movements then ensued, until her carefully executed performance ended with a flourish and a creditable version of the splits.

How on earth had she learnt to dance so expressively, I asked myself. It could only have been through watching movies like Frozen or Moana or perhaps her favourite shows on YouTube. All she knows, she has learnt by imitating those beautiful heroines in her favourite shows—even down to their dreamy facial expressions!

IMG_20180919_133830660Later, back at our unit, Maxine decided to ‘play’ our piano, but then stopped abruptly.

‘Wait—I need some music!’ she declared.

So she proceeded to fish a music sheet out of our piano stool and place it carefully within her line of vision where she must have seen those real pianists place theirs. Then, with one hand tracing the notes on that piece of music, she proceeded to play gently with the other, checking often to ensure she was ‘reading’ the music correctly.

Again, I was hard-pressed not to laugh. She has no idea what all those funny-shaped notes and symbols mean—but she was determined to appear as if she did. Surely if one imitates well enough, she must think, she will at least look like she knows exactly what she’s doing.

As I thought more about this whole act of imitation, I realised it can be seen in either a good or a bad light. If a piece of jewellery contains imitation diamonds, for example, it is considered much less valuable—even a fake. If a singer sounds too much like the artist who made a particular song famous, he or she can be written off as unoriginal and boring. Young children, who learn by imitating those around them either consciously or unconsciously, can pick up undesirable behaviour from us. And sometimes we adults can decide to be nasty and mimic someone’s voice or mannerisms, in order to ridicule them.

Yet copying others can also be a positive thing. How wonderful it is when we notice children learning to act in respectful and responsible ways gleaned from their parents’ positive example—or even their grandparents’! But how much more it must delight God when we set our hearts and minds to imitating Jesus, just as the Apostle Paul did. In 1 Corinthians 4:16, Paul simply urges the believers to imitate him—a command I used to think was a little arrogant. Yet a few chapters later, we see he is only able to say this because he knows he is following Jesus’ example with his whole heart:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

One day, I would love to say these same words as confidently as Paul did. But right now, I think I need a little more practice in that fine art of imitating Jesus. How about you?

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P1030810If I have ever had any doubt about the capacity of human beings to copy others, it is rapidly being dispelled by our nineteen month old grandson. It behoves all around him to watch what they do and how they speak, because, just when you least expect it, our Zain will say and do the very same thing as you—in exactly the same manner and with the very same intonation!

Several times recently while minding him, I have noticed how he copies my mannerisms—that shake of the head and slight frown as he says a very firm ‘No!’ or that lifting of both hands, palms up and open wide, as he agrees with me that his food is ‘all gone’! But all that pales into insignificance in the light of a sequence of events I observed last week when we were out together.

It happened in a small play area at a local shopping centre. A little girl was playing on the tiny slippery dip there—although I use the word ‘playing’ loosely. She was in fact sitting on the highest point of the slide, completely blocking any other child’s access, with her arm out straight and her hand very definitely commanding everyone to stop. She was also scowling ferociously, warning other children off with a very authoritative ‘Nooo!’ And if any ventured too close, she would quickly add loud crying to her repertoire! However many times this little girl’s mother told her to move, these instructions were ignored.

Zain just stood watching all this, finger in mouth. He didn’t seem too fazed—and a quiet word from Nanna turned his attention to a car he could play in nearby instead. Eventually, the little girl and her mother left—and then it was Zain’s moment. He climbed the couple of steps to the very same spot the little girl had occupied so successfully, turned to another child waiting, put out his arm in the self-same expert, policeman-like manner and said loudly ‘No!’

I was gobsmacked! The whole sequence of events he had observed took only a few moments all up—but that had obviously been long enough for him to take on board an apparently very desirable way of behaving. I had thought he was just innocently observing, when all the time, he was plotting how to use the same method this little girl had employed to his own advantage! Of course, Nanna quickly intervened and nipped these plans in the bud.

No doubt, as Zain grows up, he will copy the behaviour of many other little children and young people—and adults—over the years. No doubt he will make some wrong decisions at times in choosing people to emulate, but I pray he will always be able to hear God’s voice, calling him close and pointing him in the right direction. I pray for his parents and for good friends around him who live in a way that honours God. Above all, I pray the day will come when he chooses to follow Jesus for himself and to imitate his way of life—and that one day, he will be able to say to others, just as the Apostle Paul could:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Cor 11:1

Now that’s the sort of imitating worth putting into practice, don’t you think?

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I knew I sP1030733hould have been keeping a straight face, but I couldn’t. There was our little fourteen month old grandson, smiling up at me with a mischievous twinkle in his big, brown eyes, as he copied my actions to a tee! My daughter had warned me, but I hadn’t quite believed her. Now I could see what she meant.

She had told me that whenever she shakes her finger at him and says ‘No, no!’ when he is doing something he shouldn’t, he copies her exactly and shakes his finger right back at her! So when he pulled the towels off the towel rail (one of his latest tricks!) and I shook my finger at him and growled ‘No, no!’ in my best grandma voice, he shook his finger back at me, chuckled gleefully and ran off! When I gave chase, he thought it was such fun that I soon found myself laughing with him.

Later, when he was sitting quietly beside me, I decided to try that age-old game ‘Round and round the garden like a teddy bear’. I traced that little circle on the palm of his hand and he giggled deliciously when I finally tickled him. Next thing, he was trying to do the same thing himself, before abandoning the whole idea when it didn’t seem to have the desired effect.

It’s clear our grandson is rapidly developing the art of imitating his parents (and grandparents) very well. It’s a large part of the way we learn so much in life, after all, so I’m pleased he is catching on quickly. But watching him has given me some serious food for thought. What if he copies things we do or say that aren’t worth imitating? What if he notices us being impatient and harsh with each other? What if he observes us wasting too much time in front of the TV? What if he rarely sees us reading any book—let alone God’s Word? What if he learns from us to be greedy or lazy or selfish or undisciplined?

Some words Paul wrote in one of his letters often challenge me in this regard. In 1 Corinthians 4:15-16, he says:

Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

I used to think Paul was ‘big-noting’ himself a little! How could he say this? But then I discovered 1 Corinthians 11:1:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Because Paul is following Christ’s example to the best of his ability, he can urge the Corinthians to copy him in this. Paul knows he isn’t perfect—but he also knows he is following Someone who was and is! Elsewhere, Paul admits he does the things he doesn’t want to do (Rom 7:13-25). Yet he forges on, forgetting the past and always aiming to know Christ better (Phil 3:12-14). And he isn’t afraid to tell others to imitate him and live the same way.

Am I in the place of being able to say that to our grandson as he grows? Could I urge him to imitate me as I follow Christ?

At the risk of sounding too presumptuous, I hope and pray I will be able to do just that.

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