The Child, The Mimic

In the picture, I’m standing beside my mom in front of the kitchen sink. I’m probably two or three, standing in my bare feet on the smooth dark wood of a kitchen chair. A gray and white striped dish towel is tucked into the neck of my white T-shirt like a rudimentary apron, hanging down well past the elastic waistline of my bright yellow shorts. I’m grinning at the camera, a dripping, sodden dishcloth in my little hand. The containers within my reach are partially filled with water, ringed by clumps of soap suds. A flood of water spreads over the peach counter, dripping over the edge, slipping down the front of the wooden cabinets onto the floor.

I was helping my mom “wash dishes”—and the counter and floor as well, by the end of it. We didn’t have a dishwasher growing up, so everything had to be done by hand. Her hands would be submerged in the soapy dishwater, scrubbing plates, cups, forks, and pots. Of course, I wanted to help—and I mimicked her in my own sloppy, flood-inducing way.

I cut my doll’s hair, like she cut mine. I baked miniature cakes in my Easy Bake oven, like she did in the big one in the kitchen. My little eyes and ears absorbed my world, and my little hands and mouth mirrored it back. 

We expect children to mimic adults. We give them kitchen sets and stethoscopes, tool sets and baby dolls. They create makeshift classrooms and offices and drive little cars. They play “going to work” and toddle precariously with tiny feet in shoes sizes too big. 

We hear our words repeated back to us, amplified by lips that don’t fully understand what they’re saying. We see our reactions and attitudes put on display in miniature. 

In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us to “be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.” He's saying, just like a small child mimics his or her parent, mimic God. Watch how He does things, how He speaks, and mirror it back. This, I think, is the lifelong journey of growing in godliness—learning to more perfectly mirror the actions, words, attitudes, and reactions of God, our heavenly Father.

Our attempts are feeble replicas, much like my counter puddles reflected my mom’s dish washing. He knows the limitations of our hands and hearts, and, I imagine, much like any earthly parent, sees our earnest and imaginative, yet fumbling, miniature attempts at looking like Him and smiles.