Living a Life Worth Imitating

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One day when my kids were much younger, I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see one of my daughters sucking in her cheeks. “Why are you making a fish face?” I asked. “It’s not a fish face,” she replied. After answering, she readjusted her jaw to return to the somewhat sunken look. “Then why are you sucking in your cheeks like that?” “’Cause you do,” she responded quite simply. I was puzzled. At the time, I couldn't recall doing anything like this. But sure enough, the next time I was working on a writing project, I realized she was right. When I drop into a focused, intense thinking mode, I suck in my cheeks like a fish. She simply noticed and experimented, imitating my "look." We all see how babies mimic smiles and goofy faces or babble into their Fisher-Price phones with inflections like ours. As children mature, they continue to watch us. They listen. They imitate, “echoing” what they see and hear, learning by example, both good and bad. This is no small thing. We may focus a lot of energy into what we intentionally teach at a time of family devotions around the dinner table, and that’s good. But equally profound and lasting messages are conveyed while we’re doing dishes together, driving in the minivan, or working at the computer with our cheeks sucked in. They notice if we speed, run a red light, avoid someone we spot at the grocery store. They'll note if we respond to a need … or ignore one. They know if we talk with the Lord ... or if we just talk about Him. What am I modeling?

Jennifer’s post “Echo of the Harvest” describes how her daughters have watched their mama with her pen and prayer journal. They asked one day: “Could we have our own journals, too?” As Jennifer has been learning to be still, slow down, and trust God, her girls were learning it, too. One of them copied into her simple, spiral-bound journal the series of letters that she saw on an engraved cross. Following the example of her mother, this child captured the words of God Himself: “Be still and know that I am God.” Jennifer was living out a truth that echoed back to her through her daughter. Jennifer’s children are following her as she follows Christ. We’re not talking fish-face impersonations; no, Jennifer’s kids are picking the good stuff … the critical truths … the realities of life in Christ as modeled day by day in their parents.

As Ann Voskamp led her blog readers through a slow-down week, she illustrated in her post “Slow Down for Words and Dreams” how the value of living an intentionally slower life creates an environment in which her children can practice it, too, modeling their pace, prayers, hobbies and love of reading after hers. Ann’s children follow her example as she follows Christ’s. Along with their spouses, Jennifer and Ann Voskamp are living out Paul’s words for the church at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Our kids are watching us, picking up on what they see and hear. They’re imitating us. Day after day, four people have their eyes on me, picking up on my patterns, watching the way I interact with people, learning how this one imperfect, goofy, hopeful person follows Christ and serves Him. They’ll have other adults in their lives who encourage and inspire them—youth leaders, teachers, coaches—but in whatever ways my kids attempt to follow my example, I want them to see a life worth imitating. And a life worth imitating is a life of love that's utterly dependent on Jesus: Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Post written by Ann Kroeker of ann kroeker.writer. Photo by Ann Voskamp. Used with permission.