By: Dn Ng Zhiwen
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” Ephesians 5:1
“Full of nonsense!”
That’s what my niece Katey (my wife’s brother’s daughter) would squeal when she hears or says something silly. She’d even crow “Katey full of nonsense” – we’d smile and laugh each time that happens, for in truth, she’s just being a parrot, mimicking what her doting parents have often said to her in playful jest.
Whether we realize it or not, you and I adopt a lot of the habits and gestures of our parents. Think long enough, and you might find out that you actually have gotten a lot of your personality, preferences, strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears from them. For myself, I can clearly see that I got my “mild workaholism” from one of my parents, and yet a certain air of laidback-ness towards specific things from the other. (side note: I wished that some of my parents’ orderliness and cleanliness rubbed off on me… but maybe that’s my problem!)
Psychologists tell us that part of the reason why we share the characteristics of our parents boils down to genetics, but a big factor is simply that we have spent so much time with our parents, that they influence us in a variety of ways… you may say that they are caught or taught:
1. Values and priorities
2. Likes and Dislikes
3. What’s right and what’s wrong / What’s good, better, and best
4. What it is like to be under authority / What it is like to exercise authority
5. How to relate to others, and even how to motivate them
I don’t know if it has been scientifically established, but I think I can confidently say that children who had spent a large part of their growing up years hanging out with their parents will share much in common with them, compared to children who spent relatively less time with their parents and more with others (e.g. their friends, computer, or just themselves)
Now, the question for each of us is, how much time do we spend with God, such that we may imitate Him?
When Jesus said, “Follow Me” to His would-be disciples, He meant for them to spend time, lots of it, I mean 3 year’s worth of 24/7 with Him…. watching Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, waiting for Him, waiting on Him, obeying Him.
At the same time, they also spent time with each other, fellow followers of Christ, rubbing off each other, observing each other’s interactions with Christ and defining one’s own as a result (Can you imagine how the disciples felt when Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan”?).
Time. It’s another way of spelling “love”. How we spend our time will determine how we get influenced and shaped, for good or for bad. And how much time we spend with the Lord is closely related to how much we would end up imitating Him. Truth is, in this case, it’s either-or – we will be feasting either on really good food, or on poison.
I have written all this partly as a form of self-criticism. As you know, I just returned from a holiday abroad, and this past week has been my first week not working in an office, for a long time. And what have I been doing with all this time? I have to confess that a good bit of it was spent surfing youtube and wikipedia in a mini-revival of an old interest in J.S. Bach’s music (That’s pre-classical stuff, but as a balance, I am also interested in the Bee Gees, U2, and I have a mild preference for the retro music of the ’80s… yeah…).
I easily got myself thinking that soaking up on a little pet interest is quite harmless. Now I am not saying that one should not cultivate such interests (this is a separate topic – and I would recommend C.S. Lewis’ essay “Learning in wartime” for a helpful perspective on that).
But the truth is that I was getting out of balance, and it was undeservedly snatching time (and energy) away from all the other things that I could have been doing as a blessing to myself or to others. It was also snatching time away between me and God. Does it come as a surprise then that during these times, I should find it harder to discern the will of the Lord?
And so, I should get off my chair and go to bed soon…
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you!