This simple phrase, taken from Ephesians 5:1-2, has been the single most important truth in shaping and guiding my fathering and my marriage for the last 43 years! I believe today that Christians, in all their intellectualism and all their books on every topic you can imagine, have over complicated and shrouded the Christian life in academic mystery. Most have missed the simple, profound way, to see clearly what God would want us to be and how to be it.
There is not a day that goes by that I have not pondered this truth: Imitate God, as a dearly loved child, and live a life of love, as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for you.
My fathering has been rooted in my study and pondering of how God is as a father with His children, how God is with me, and how I can imitate that in the fathering of my precious children. I give thought every day to how God loves me as His dearly loved child, and I strive with all my heart to do the same with my children, to literally imitate God the Father.
The examples are simple but profound.
Does God spend time with me? Then I will spend time with mine.
Does God shame me? Then I will not shame my kids.
Does God treasure me? Then I will treasure mine.
Does God enjoy me? Then I will enjoy mine.
Is God generous with me? Then I will be generous with mine.
Does God encourage me? Then I will encourage mine.
Does God lovingly correct me? Then I will lovingly correct mine.
Does God forsake us? Then I won’t forsake mine.
Does God leave us? Then I won’t leave mine.
And on and on it goes.
My husbanding has been rooted in my study and thought given to the life of Jesus Christ and how He loves, serves, cherishes and lays His life down for His bride, the church, which is you and me. I then seek to apply those very insights and truths to the reality of how I treat Kathy and deal with her on a daily basis.
I cannot overstate this truth or overemphasize how powerful, important, life-transforming, and shaping it has been on my life, my actions, my behavior, and my ways of being with my wife and my children.
I would like to offer a couple of examples.
The Bible makes it clear that God is our everlasting Father. We can see in the Bible how He deals with us in such a patient, understanding, and compassionate way.
We see in Psalm 103 that as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord is tenderly compassionate with his children. He understands how weak we are and knows we are only dust. Most of us never really ponder this truth, but on our very best day, we are just balls of dust.
I cannot tell you how much this has helped me in dealing with my little children.
God knows that we are all just little balls of dirt and that we come apart very easily! We are frail, we are weak, we need tremendous patience, empathy, and compassion.
God deals with us in tremendous quantities of grace and compassionate love.
Once many years ago I was on a walk with my children. My young son, who was about 3 at the time, loved to run on up ahead. It made him feel big and free. As we began walking down a sloping sidewalk, he began to run. I told him “Be careful son”, but his little legs were going so fast, and his little body got ahead of his legs, and BAM! Down he went, right on his face!! His lip started to bleed, and tears started to stream down his face, and he cried those loud painful cries. He was hurt, he was scared, he was embarrassed. As a father, I could have decided to stand back, to let him cry a bit, to let him learn the lesson, that son, you should have listened to me, and this wouldn’t have happened.
Then I thought of God, it was immediate in my mind. How God is our advocate, how He rushes to our side when we make mistakes. My thoughts immediately went to Psalm 103 and the tremendous compassion of God, His tender understanding of our makeup and our mistakes, that on my best day, I am a dustball, and I blow over so easily.
I rushed to my young son, I picked him up, held him, was tender with him, got blood all over my shirt, as I comforted him, and dried his tears.
Imitate God has also greatly impacted my marriage and relationship with Kathy.
Oh, this has been so powerful for me, so very helpful. Over the almost 40 years Kathy and I have been married. We have failed each other many times. Failed to be our most Christ-like self. We have hurt each other with our words. When I was a young husband, I felt I needed to point these things out, I felt it was my duty to let her know how much she hurt me or failed me. Then this phrase, imitate God, began to sink in much more deeply. I began to intentionally ponder and understand the grace Jesus Christ to me, that was made possible by His tremendous sacrifice in the Gospel message. It began to have a tremendous impact on how I viewed and treated Kathy when mistakes were made. I realized that God had already forgiven me all my sin, that He was not trying to shame me or make me feel bad for the wrongs I did that day, and that I could and should treat Kathy as God treated me because of Jesus Christ and His grace.
It greatly impacted how easily I was able to forgive her in my heart and move on, whether she asked my forgiveness or not. I saw in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that Jesus Himself treated me as a new creation, that He was for me and not against me, that He did not condemn me or hold things over my head to make me feel guilty. This brought tremendous change to the way I treated my precious wife. It was so powerful, and still is to this very day. In fact, it changed everything. It is the greatest secret to our marriage today.
Never, ever forget this. The more time you spend with God, the more time you spend reading and observing what God is like in the Bible, pondering what He is revealing to you about Himself. And the more time you spend truly getting to know Him and walk with Him in a real, living way every single day, the more you will imitate God.
You cannot imitate the God you do not really know or ever spend time with!
May you imitate God today and every day.
Helping you become a strong disciple,
Because of Jesus,