Thursday, August 30, 2012

Growing By Imitation

Today I passed by a few of young girls (ages 7ish-9ish). I didn't catch the complete nature of their banter, but I did hear one of them say with a fair bit of sassyness, "That's how I get my... (pause)" then the other girls chimed in together "SATISFACTION!"

I found it humorous because the whole scene just seemed a little big for them: the way they were hanging out together in front of the store, the tone of their voices, and even the concept of being "satisfied." No doubt they were putting their own twist on something they have seen and heard from adults. Its cute because the behavior outsizes them. Its like large ears on a puppy dog, or the big head on a baby, or a young child's eyes that seem full grown long before the rest of the face has caught up. Its like when my 3 year old stands in my shoes--he is being very serious, literally walking in the shoes that he imagines figuratively filling some day, and at the same time it is quite cute to see such smallness behaving so big.

These images remind me of what I was taught in a clinical pastoral education class while still in seminary about ten years ago now. Our instructor said something to the effect of, "starting out in ministry is like standing in shoes that don't fit. Its uncomfortable, you second guess whether or not you belong there, and you wonder whether or not the shoes are actually yours given how loosely they fit. But the longer you walk in them, the more they become yours, and the more comfortable you become in them."
In other words, our teacher was telling us--you grow into ministry.

I find this very applicable in the general walk of faith. People who have renewed their commitment to God, or who have come to Christ and the church for the first time may find the shoes of faithfulness to be a bit uncomfortable and perhaps to big to walk in. Individuals who are highly effective and eloquent in their daily life - whether at work, home, or with friends, find themselves mute on matters of faith. They may shy away from taking too significant a part in the church ministries because they feel a little outside their zone.

But like a child grows into adulthood--at first clumsily imitating adults, then growing more comfortable with themselves, then finally reaching adulthood; so too a person of faith grows into maturity--at first imitating fellow believers who have journeyed further along the path of faithfulness, then maturing into one who strives after God with their whole heart--still imitating those further along, but far more focused on imitating the perfect image found in Christ.

This is what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 11 when he told believers, "Imitate me even as I imitate Christ."

I say this to encourage those in the congregation who feel like they are being pushed outside their comfort zones. We are calling many of you into greater service, calling on you to seek deeper growth, and calling on you to take on new leadership responsibilities. The clothes may not fit properly today, and at times you may feel as though you embarrass yourself. But soon you will be who you now feel you pretend to be. We are all growing; growing happens by imitation; imitation can feel inauthentic; but we do become who we imitate, just as Zach who today tries on my shoes--much too big--will one day fill them comfortably.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, great word of encouragement.

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