How We Become Ourselves

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children… -Ephesians 5:1

Dear friends,

A few months ago, when my wife Kristen and I sent our oldest kiddo Ryan to his room for bed time, he started crying and told me he was hungry. Realizing he hadn’t eaten much at supper, I gave him a slice of bread. So the next night he asked for a piece of bread, and the next night after that. One of those nights, I gave this unintended tradition an alliterative name: “Bed bread.”

Over time, the bed bread tradition has extended. Now the bed bread must be toasted, and, as of a few weeks ago, must also have non-dairy butter spread applied.

The other night, our younger child Micah also wanted bed bread. He was very upset because Ryan was eating and he was hungry too. I heard Ryan gently tell Micah, “Please stop screaming, I will give you some butter.”

I posted that story on Facebook with the caption, “in case you wanted to know what kinds of parents we are.”

I often learn what kind of a person I am by watching Ryan. He doesn’t do what I tell him so much as he does what I do. Once when he did something I didn’t like, I firmly told him to “Never do that again!” If he’s repeated those words back to me once – in exactly that tone – he’s done it a hundred times.

Ryan is being formed, day by day, by the behavior of the adults in his life. It’s not just us, it’s also his daycare teachers. He has brought home a few phrases I know we didn’t teach him.

But it’s not just Ryan; it’s all of us. We are all being formed, day by day, by what and who we interact with and give our attention to.

This morning I logged on to Facebook and Twitter and had a brief moment of clarity. I asked myself, “Is this actually how I want to start my day? Do I want to decide – by default – to let the outrage machine on social media define my agenda for my morning, if not my day?”

And if we are formed by watching how other humans behave, how much more are we formed by our understanding of how God acts? If we worship a kind, self-giving God, how will that form us? If we worship a God who is angry all the time and punishes God’s enemies with violence, what kind of a people will we be?

The next verse after Ephesians 5:1 says, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”

Rev. David M. Schell, pastor