I built four large, raised-bed vegetable gardens and one small herb garden in our back yard for Alean. Though it is a lot of work, she enjoys arranging, planting, cultivating the vegetables. I enjoy eating them! The twenty-four-inch elevation allows her to tend the gardens without straining her back.
Some time ago Alean and I worked the gardens together, fertilizing, digging holes, planting tomatoes, radishes, zucchinis, and enough lettuce to feed the entire block.
Our then two-year-old granddaughter, Peyton, was right in the thick of it, watching the entire process with rapt attention. Before I knew what was happening, Peyton, by my side, had leaned over the edge of the garden bed, dug her fingers deeply into the soil and begun flinging it in random directions.
Quick to the rescue … “Oh, no, Peyton! Don’t do that,” I mildly cautioned her.
Despite how gently I had said it, Peyton was crushed, tears welling in her eyes, a classic trembling chin, and the locomotive-style pre-cry that rips a grandfather’s heart from his chest before wringing it out like a wet chamois. As quickly as I could lift her, Peyton was on my lap in a tight, comforting embrace.
It was not until hours later, as I discussed the event with Alean, that I understood what I had done that crushed the spirit of my granddaughter.
“She was helping us with the garden,” Alean said. “We were digging holes, so she was digging holes too.”
Of course. It was obvious … now … way after the fact. She wanted to do everything Papa and Nana were doing. I felt like a heel.
Children are natural imitators. They take on their parents’ mannerisms and speech patterns. Shortly after birth, an infant will imitate its mother sticking out her tongue. Children put on their parents’ shoes and hats. They sit behind the wheel of the car, pretending to drive it, going even so far as to imitate the engine sounds and the squealing tires. A son walks behind his father with a plastic lawn mower to help mow the lawn.
As the sons and daughters of God we, like our own children, are called to be imitators – imitators of God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
– Ephesians 5:1, ESV
How do we do that? How do we imitate God?
The instruction manual for being an imitator of God is found in phrase immediately following our call to be imitators. “Walk in love.”1 The apostle John tells us that “God IS love.”
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
– 1 John 4:7-8, ESV
God’s very essence is love. I can say that and write that, and I hold it to be true, but I struggle to understand exactly what it means. It makes more sense to me to say “God is lovING.” But to say “God is love” is a bit of a mental hiccup for me.
What is not confusing is that for me to be an imitator of God demands that I walk in love.
The greatest and second greatest commandments are commandments to love – love God, and love my neighbor. The apostle Peter says that above all else, meaning if we cannot get anything else right, we are to love one another deeply. The apostle Paul prayed that our love for one another would abound and said that love is greater than faith and hope.
Be an imitator of God as a child of God. Walk in love, because God is love.
We love because he first loved us.
– 1 John 4:19, ESV
1. Ephesians 5:2a