imitationMy daughter has a habit that annoys her youngest brother out of his mind. She won’t order for herself and has to wait for the little guy to decide first, or else she’ll say she wants whatever he’s having. She’s a first-class imitator. In fact, years ago, we caught her imitating someone who was imitating her.

In nature, there are also imitators. Some species imitate a more dangerous creature in order to trick potential predators into staying away from them. On the other hand, some predators pretend to be harmless in order to lure their prey into coming closer. Certain species of moths or butterflies have what appears visually to be eyes on their wings. Then there are magpies who are not afraid to mimic the call of another species of bird or even the sound of a tractor … and parrots who can be trained to speak like their human owners.

Like much of creation, we are wired to learn by imitation. With my daughter’s disability, we spent hours mimicking her actions until she started to copy ours … and then we could shift toward skills she needed to learn. Because that’s how we learn. (Don’t believe me? Just think about the toddler clutching a building block to her ear and jabbering away as if she’s on a cell phone.)

The key to imitation is finding the right thing to imitate. We all have the innate ability to acquire the habits of those we spend time with. For example, I went to college in the south and came home with a thick drawl and a habit of saying y’all. Then, a few years back, I was roommates at a writing conference with a woman from Canada … and two days later found myself saying “eh” like a native! It’s one reason we are picky about the friends our kids choose to hang out with.

John cautions us to “do not imitate what is evil but what is good.” (3 John 1:11a NIV) Paul wrote to the church in Corinth urging them to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16) and then complimented the church in Thessalonica for “you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message … and so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 NIV) The writer of Hebrews cautioned believers to avoid becoming lazy “but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:12 NIV) It seems we learn how to live by finding the right people to copy.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV)

Creation declares that imitation is a powerful learning tool when used correctly.

What about you? Who do you imitate? Who imitates you? How do you find the best examples to follow?

Creation Declares – Mimics
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