Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us as a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2
The power of imitation is everything in how we become people. Think of how a child grows up with an accent like their parents, or with phrases or gestures like their parents. We never had to be told to imitate our parents – it is how we become a human being. For better or worse, we inherit a way of being, a way of experiencing life from our parents through the medium of imitation.
Attachment (or bonding) is the strongest force in the human brain, and it drives transformation. Our brains are designed in such a way that we will only allow someone with whom we are strongly bonded to change our character. Once we are bonded, our identity center opens up and begins to track and imitate behavior and attitudes – everything from mannerisms to speech patterns to character traits to beliefs, we imitate and become like those with whom we have strong bonds. It doesn’t matter if this is a healthy bond or unhealthy, we will change to be like those to whom we are strongly bonded. We will experience life as this bond has formed us to experience it.
It’s important to note that we become like these people actually are, not who they profess to be. Our brains connect and track far below the conscious level of thought. We track people’s actual character and behavior, not what they tell us to do, say, or believe.
If our bond is based around joy and love, we will track all that is joyful and loving about life and people. If our bond is based around fear, we will track everything that is scary about people and life. If our bond is based around shame, we will track everything shameful about ourselves and others.
Ephesians 5:1 says “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.” Apply the power of relational imitation to this verse. Dearly loved children (securely bonded children) imitate their healthy parents and enter life with a healthy way of being. We naturally imitate God as we are securely bonded to Him. This is not a matter of knowing what God says we should do but being so bonded to Him that we track and imitate Him as the most kind, joyful, secure Being to whom we are bonded.
Looking at another thought, a new study published in the ‘Journal of Social and Personal Relationships’ recently calculated that, on average, it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you become real friends, and about 200 hours to become close friends.
We spend time with those who bring us joy, that sense of being glad to be together. Resetting our minds and heart to a natural state of joy enables us to grow our joy with God, delighting in our time together. As we delight in Him and receive His delight in us, we bond securely, and our imitation of Him is a natural outgrowth. What a natural, organic way to grow in maturity and Christlikeness!