The way his big sister skips around the house.
The way I slap my leg to get our dog's attention.
The way Daddy waves his arms to direct congregational singing on Sundays.
It's something that is making me more mindful of what I do, knowing that he is watching us so carefully. And something we have to remind our Sunshine Girl about, too, because of everyone in the family, she is the one he imitates the most. Her actions, her attitudes, her words, everything. He adores her, he wants to be like her, and he is around her almost all the time, so he knows what she does and how she does it.
Watching him watching her, and watching him imitate her, reminds me of the awesome responsibility that I have, that every believer has, to be an example for others. The apostle Paul wrote, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1, NIV).
That is a frightening invitation! Especially considering that the ones closest to me, who see my example everyday, are my children, and there are many, many times when the idea of them following my example has had me hanging my head in shame. When I have lost my temper, or said something hurtful, or been impatient, or given in to fear and frustration rather than faith. When I hear my daughter using my own words in the same way I do, and I see my reflection in her, and it's not what I want to see.
But then I read the rest of Paul's invitation. "As I follow the example of Christ." If I am following the example of Christ, who is perfectly good and loving, then my example will be worthy of being followed by my children and by others in my circle of influence. And while that also is a daunting task, the secret to it lies in the example of my son again, who imitates best those he loves. Because he watches us, he spends time with us, and he wants to be like us.
In another letter, Paul exhorted the believers of Ephesus, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Ephesians 5:1-2, NIV).
I imitate God best when I watch Him, by regularly immersing myself in the pages of the Scriptures; when I spend time with Him, by sitting at His feet in personal times of prayer and worship; and when I aspire to be like Him, by serving Him in my family, in the community of believers, and in the larger community in which we live, and by seeing how others who love Him live their lives.
Because it is within those contexts of His Word, prayer and worship, and His people that His Spirit living within me can help me work out my salvation. When I see myself falling short, it is often because I have allowed one of these to fall by the wayside.
My children will not consciously copy and imitate me forever, but I will always be one of the the first glimpses they had of who God is. And every time I see my son being a "copycat", it is a blessed reminder that I need to first immerse myself in my Father's love, so I may imitate Him more fully, and then provide them with a more accurate vision of the God I so desperately want them to know as well.