When our grandson D. was one, we visited for a few days, and he fell in love with the boy (his uncle, only ten-eleven years older). D. had a beach ball that came nearly to his shoulders, which he loved to push around the room. The boy saw more potential, and one evening flung himself over the top of the ball and rode it to the ground, somersaulting away as he came down. D. thought this hilarious and decided he would do the same. As he threw himself at the ball, however, he quickly saw that the ride down would certainly be dangerous.
So he threw himself at the ball, jumped back from it, and dropped onto the floor in the exact same position as the boy’s when he landed from a somersault. Then he laughed wildly as he looked for our reaction, which was all he could possibly have hoped for.
They must have done this for half an hour, the boy somersaulting over the ball, D. imitating him to the best of his ability, the adults clapping and laughing at the fun, his mom and I wiping away tears of mirth.
It struck me later that perhaps we ask too much of ourselves and others when we try to imitate Jesus and godly folk we know. None of us expected D. to strictly imitate his uncle, to be able to do or even try the exact same actions. Rather, we delighted in his desire to imitate and applauded his vigorous efforts to do the best he could with his more childish abilities.
I wonder if the Father, laughing a bit at our awkwardness, applauds us a great deal more often than we realize, knowing that because we love Him we will continue to grow and to increase our ability to imitate His Son more closely. I wonder if we would grow more quickly if we rejoiced in His love instead of always fearing a wrath that is reserved not for us who are His children but for those who reject Him out of hand.
I hope that I can learn to accept more graciously both my own limitations and the limitations of others, seeing and rejoicing in the attempt to imitate, recognizing it as love which will lead to growth, instead of demanding an impossible perfection.