Stephen King wrote, ‘Imitation preceded creation; I would copy Combat Casey comics word for word in my Blue Horse tablet, sometimes adding my own descriptions where they seemed appropriate.’ As a fun read I have been working my way through Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing.’ I have never read one of his fiction books but I thought it would be intriguing to read a well loved author’s thoughts on the writing process.
I’ve read this idea many times before. The greatest musicians/composers of all time would engage in the same activity. They would sit and copy down the masterworks composed by the master composers who had gone before them. Even contemporary guitar players will memorize the solos of the historic players that they respect. You can easily hear this as you listen to musicians play. You can hear Mozart as you listen to Beethoven. You can hear Albert King in the playing of Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Jesus practiced this same method of influence and mentorship and seems to invite us to do the same. It is easy to get caught in tunnel-vision as we study the rhetoric of the Apostle Paul. He strings together such incredible logic and argumentation in order to communicate life-changing ideas to the churches. However Paul, in the same way as Jesus, invited others to travel with him and imitate his life whenever that was possible. Most of his written letters were to groups of people with which he had served and built relationships. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.’
As Jesus was gathering the disciples his invitation to them was ‘come and follow me.’ The concept of apprenticeship is not as common today as it was in years past. Today we often just want to arrive at the level/title of ‘master’ without going through the growth journey of getting there. In the church that produces a lot of people who must act like they have everything in life neatly put together and are possessing all the answers to the right questions when those answers (when correct) are empty and meaningless. We are instructed in scripture to journey ahead growing daily in our relationship with Jesus. This idea is called sanctification. The model of sanctification demonstrated by Jesus is a model of imitation and discipleship.
We must have people around us regularly who, in certain areas of their lives, we are looking to imitate. The beauty of God’s church is that each person has a different strength and passion. We need to pursue finding someone who we can imitate in their rigorous pursuit of renewing their mind through voracious reading and study. We must pursue establishing relationships with those who inspire our prayer lives as we are challenged to imitate their rhythms of prayer. We must pursue marriages to imitate in their Christ-centered approach to marriage. The same is true for parenting, finances, careers, etc…
Age is often a prideful stumbling block in this discussion. We aren’t looking for the oldest person to imitate but rather a Jesus-loving heart who has a strength where you have a weakness. Spend time with them. Ask them questions. Invite them to your home for a meal. Humble yourself and open your eyes to the great hearts and minds with which God has surrounded you.
Do you have any stories of great mentors in your life who you have been challenged to imitate in specific areas of their spiritual lives?