Imitating Others While Staying True to Yourself and Remaining Authentic!

Imitating others is a biblical principle  for effective discipleship. We must choose wisely who to follow, while staying authentic to ourselves. It’s not an easy task!

One spring day, while sitting at the piano practising drills, I became acutely aware the musical phrases were being echoed just outside my window. Perched among the blossoms of the flowering plumb, a small grey-feathered, non-descript, bird eyed me intently. Over the next five minutes, I tested his reciting ability, only to have this talented little mimic follow my lead precisely.

Mockingbird

For some reason I felt deeply saddened when he took flight and our musical conversation ended. Though excellent at imitating, I never did hear his song or appreciate his individual melody.

Authentic

We must first come to acknowledge our own God-given identity, nature and calling before we will effectively live it out. Without even realizing it, we can begin to imitate those around us and lose the essence of our uniqueness. In so doing, everyone misses out!

“If two people think the same thing
about everything, one of them isn’t necessary.”
Ben Carson

Peer pressure isn’t just something teenagers deal with! We all face it! The catchy clichés, snappy lyrics, and emotion grabbing images of advertising are aimed at capturing our attention and influencing our decisions. Peer pressure of sorts!

David sang,

“I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:14

There are no duplicates with God! No carbon copies of you! Why? Because God has a specific purpose in mind!

You alone can connect with others through your specific gifting, talents, perspectives, history, personality. Only you can bring your special combination of joy, compassion, and sensitivity to the people around you. God has given you an individualized ability to create, design, and solve problems. He has planted you specifically where you are to influence, encourage, and make a positive difference.

How  authentic are we willing to be? You totally being you! Me really being me!

Stand Alone

The little mockingbird has the capabilities to even imitate a cat, his fiercest and much larger enemy! This bird’s ability to imitate or “mock” other sounds, beyond its own song, is actually how it got its name.

For people, however, parroting the pattern of others can lead to problems.

Colourful parrot and boy

At one point Paul sharply confronts Peter for doing just that. Fear caused Peter to wronging imitate others!

“… I opposed (Peter) to his face,
because he stood condemned.
For before certain men came from James,
he used to eat with the Gentiles.
But when they arrived,
he began to draw back and separate himself
… because he was afraid
of those who belonged
to the circumcision group.”
Galatians 2:11-12

Fear and the need to belong can potentially draw us away from being true to ourselves and God’s purposes. Peter, by imitating others, caused many people to stumble spiritually!

“…they were not acting in line
with the truth of the gospel…”
Galatians 2:14

It takes strength to stand alone under pressure. This strength comes when we know who we are and to Whom we belong.

Direction

Living fully in the uniqueness of our identity in Christ sometimes calls for a change of direction. Many aspects of the world threaten to draw us into unfruitful conformity.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will is
–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The “pattern of this world” is to create clones — in organized mass production — carbon copy reflections of the latest craze. The enemy of our souls delights in incarcerating us in his prison of conformity.

Father and son walking

Rather than align ourselves with the world’s pattern, we often need to disagree, disregard, ignore and even reject it. Powerful action is required to break free from the down-draft that threatens to deny the potential hidden within our unique identity in Christ.

“Don’t let your character change colour
with your environment.
Find who you are
and let it stay in its true colours.”
(Columbine Martyr, Rachel Joy Scott)

Be assured God does have a perfect colour, His “good, pleasing and perfect will”, for each of us! His design will be clearly seen as we turn from the world around us toward Him.

Follow Me

It isn’t surprising that Jesus invited people to follow. He called out to Peter and his brother Andrew,

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said,
“and I will send you out to fish for people.”
Matthew 4:19

That door of opportunity remains open! His words still resonate with anticipation! When He washed the disciples feet, He said,

“I have given you an example.
You should do as I have done for you.”
John 13:15

In following Christ’s example, we become imitators of Him and find our otherwise hidden purpose and meaning. Though there are similarities in us as Christ-followers, how we actually walk out our lives will vary when we stay true to ourselves.

Among other things, “follow me” includes:

  • Accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord (Matthew 16:24)
  • Becoming a servant of all (Matthew 25:28)
  • Forgiving others even as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Loving unconditionally (1 John 4:16)

To truly “be ourselves”, we must first be “like Christ!” Each of us is made in the image of God. Yet, each of us represents that image from a slightly different perspective. It is impossible to be fully you or fully me, without being like Him!

Imitating Others

Watching sons mimic their fathers and daughters reflect their mothers can be humorous, challenging and sobering. Wanting to emulate those we esteem is inherent in us all, Everyone desires to belong within a community.

Sailors - a son imitating a father

Paul boldly tells others,

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

In imitating others, wisdom will guide us to chose those who consistently pattern themselves after Christ!

That word “follow”, “Mimetai”, is the Greek word from which “mime” originates and means to imitate. Paul tells us to closely follow his living example to “the same degree and manner” that he is imitating Christ.

Take an honest look at those in the lead. Are they following Christ? Are they living in the fullness of God’s call in their personal lives?

“Those who say they live in God
should live their lives as Jesus did.”
1 John 2:6

Live Fully

May we find a way to both follow godly examples while faithfully leading those who are stepping into rhythm with our own footsteps.

Let faith move us to live authentically, refusing to settle for “average” or the status quo. May we be propelled to rise to the fullness of our God-given capabilities.

Perhaps, there is an artistic expression
only you can deliver.
Someone is waiting to hear the story
only you can tell.
You alone have the exact match
of audacity and patience,
fortitude and meekness,
gentleness and fierceness
that God needs right now,
right where you are at.

Make a splash! Humpback whale

So live boldly! Live graciously! Live for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

“Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men,”
Colossians 3:23

Let’s not be like the mockingbird; may the world be imprinted by the genuine mark of our lives. By following Christ and imitating others who walk closely with Him, let’s each discover our own unique “normal”.

 

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Wrestling With and For Truth! The Truth About Wrangling!

Many people today are wrestling with truth! Some are sure there is no absolute truth. Meanwhile, others are giving their lives for truth! Lengthy wrangling, articulate debating, and bull-headed dogmatism abound.

Truth is more than a concept; it is a Person!

Throughout the ages, many people have spent their lives searching for truth, others have fought fiercely in its defense.

At the trial of Jesus, 

“What is truth?” Pilate retorted…”
John 18:38

Wrangler

A wrangler is more than someone who debates eloquently or a favorite pair of jeans. A wrangler is someone who takes care of livestock.

Our family were cattle producers. One spring, the season of serious wrangling, a “town boy”, who happened to be a pastor’s son, was anxious to enter the corral and experience true wrangling.

Into the pen of spring born calves he confidently pranced. In short order the poor lad was dragged, dangled, trampled, kicked and bunted. There wasn’t an inch of his apparel not caked, covered and layered in a mixture of mud, sweat and manure.

Wrangling cattle

Though we felt sorry for the young green-horn, the real life drama playing out before our eyes was worth far more than any trip to the movies. Although lacking the skill of catching, flipping and holding a calf, he deserved top marks for the effort he brought to the ring.

Surprisingly, he had as much fun trying as we had watching. Years later, the image of his arms and legs flailing the air continues to bring smiles and chuckles.

Persistence

If there was one lesson I learned that day it was that persistence pays! Quitting was no where to be found in this boys genes!

Those who wrestled and wrangled in the bible carried the same attitude.

Cowboy persistence

Remember Jacob?

“So Jacob was left alone
and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 
When the man saw that 
he could not overpower him, 
he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip
 so that his hip was wrenched 
as he wrestled with the man. 
Then the man said, 
“Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied 
I will not let you go 
unless you bless me.” 
Genesis 32:24-26

Jacob’s painful wrangling gave him more than a permanent limp; he gained a new identity and a generational promise.

Until this point, condemnation shadowed Jacob’s life, “You are a thief, a trickster, a liar.” That day, Jacob wrestled for the truth of his belonging. He received a new name, Israel, meaning Prince of God.

Working hard!

Others

What about Elijah? The Mount Carmel show down between 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah wasn’t about strength or power. It ultimately was a contest of what is true? Who is God? Is it Baal or is it the LORD?

“At the time of sacrifice, 
the prophet Elijah 
stepped forward and prayed:
“LORD, the God of Abraham, 
Isaac and Israel, 
let it be known today 
that you are God in Israel…”
1 Kings 18:36

When God responded with fire, the people declared in unison,

The LORD — he is God!
 The LORD — he is God!”
1 Kings 18:39

Truth ultimately wins, though usually not without a struggle of faith.

The struggle

It was true for Jonah, Esther, David, and Moses. It was true for Abraham and Sarah, Gideon, and Jeremiah. 

Faith and Truth

Most of the deepest wrangling comes when God bends our experiential truth into alignment with the way of The Truth, Jesus Christ.

A man brought his demon possessed son to Jesus. The tormenting spirit had attempted to kill his son many times by throwing him either into fire or water. He doubted if even Jesus could or would help.

“…But if you can do anything,
 take pity on us and help us.” 
‘If you can’?” said Jesus…”
Mark 9:23-24

As truth spoke, faith grabbed hold! The wrangling began,

“…I do believe
help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

In prison, John the Baptist wrestled in faith to believe Jesus was The Truth, The Messiah sent from God (Matthew 11). Thomas wrangled to believe Jesus was raised from the dead (John 20). Peter grappled with the truth that salvation was for Greeks as well as Jews (Acts 10).

Laying hold of truth

Faith and truth collided on the Damascus road, as Paul brutally faced the reality of his spiritual blindness.

Truth Check

Perhaps tangling with truth is necessary for us all! 

My thoughts are nothing
like your thoughts,”
says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond
anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8

Thankfully, God consistently bends our minds, wrangles our attitudes, and wrestles our intentions into alignment with His. He never quits – never leaves us as He find us.

Sometimes I stubbornly resist! It doesn’t make sense! My futile thought processes cannot instantaneously connect faith and truth.

Wrangling together

I ultimately end up a lot like our young helper many years ago! My wrestling for and with truth sometimes feels dangerous, downright messy, and thoroughly exhausting.

Three times in Acts 10 God pushed Peter beyond former paradigms,

“…Do no call anything impure 
that God has made clean.”
Acts 10:15

God’s truth united with Peter’s faith opening wide the door to preach the Gospel of salvation to non-Jews. The implications of this single instance of receiving truth cannot be measured.

The Truth

My little contending undoubtedly isn’t as dramatic, but I cannot allow myself the luxury of refusing the invitation to come into agreement with God. 

The bible is the unmoving standard of all truth.

“All your words are true,
all your righteous laws are eternal.”
Psalm 119:160

God’s word is true! That word is eternal! Never ending, never changing, never varying!

How can I be so sure? Jesus made the astounding declaration, 

“…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
John 14:6

Truth isn’t a relative concept that changes with times or seasons. Truth is a Person. Jesus is Truth. Truth never changes because God never changes!

Taking the lead

In fact, whenever I find myself wrestling with the definitive truth of the bible, I am attempting to wrangle with God. Resist His truth and I can expect to come away limping like Jacob! Yield to it by faith and God alone knows the grandness of the repercussions. 

Never!

Divine truth must be received by faith. That doesn’t mean we throw out sound judgment, critical thinking, and careful consideration.  Actually, acknowledging truth is giving full mental assent to its reality. In so doing, God gives us a new lens with which to view Him and the world around us. 

My source of wrestling for truth is often like Peter’s, 

Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied.
“I have never eaten anything
impure or unclean.”
Acts 10:14

How many times have I responded similarly to God, “Surely not! I have never…”?

Wrangling clenches tight-fisted to “never“! Placing experiential truth ahead of God’s eternal truth will reveal terminal fault lines in our thinking.

God proves patient, however. He is relentless in drawing us into ever increasing ways of truth. We may wrangle like Peter, wrestling with ourSurely not, Lord!” attitudes. Peter got the message and responded with new understanding.

Will our “never” yield to God’s truth? Because God’s ways really are so much higher than ours, we will continue to wrestle both with and for truth. But it is a wrangling that pays benefits!

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