I don’t know about your family culture, but in our little DeLaune family, we like to match. Not every day of course, but occasionally we will wear matching clothes or color coordinate. I have to say that this comes naturally to me. You see, I am the oldest of three girls. One sister, Samantha is 4 years younger than me and Amy is 6 years younger and I can vividly remember holidays, especially Christmas and Easter where we would match each other for church and family photos. Sometimes my mom would sew the dresses by hand and work tirelessly to have us all in matching Sunflower print dresses for Easter with a matching tie for my dad. We would wear frilly dresses at Christmas time, with curled hair and matching bows. I loved it until probably around 4th grade and then I was over it.
But without even trying, I have passed that love of matching on to my kids. Even Charlie has gotten into the spirit of things recently. Just yesterday Ryan and Charlie matched shirt patterns and pants and then this morning Emmaline saw what her Daddy was wearing and immediately changed her outfit so she could match him (pictured below). And this is the season for it, am I right? You can’t walk into a store these days or scroll through social media without seeing opportunities to put your entire family, and dog for that matter into matching Pajamas for the holidays. I assume that the marketing is geared more so towards women, because I have yet to meet a father who initiates these kinds of things, but it does make for a cute picture and a fun family memory, does it not?
But at the heart of the cultural pressure to buy into these things is a deeper and more innocent love that we develop as children. When we are young, we want to mimic our parents and be like them. And if we were honest, us as parents like it too when our children want to be like us. As I was thinking about my own children wanting to match their father earlier this week, I thought about how we are called, as followers of Jesus to match our Heavenly Father. Let me explain.
Ephesians 5: 1-2 says this:
“5 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Another word for imitators is “Follower”, which is what all of us are called to be. We aren’t the leader, the co-leader, or the caboose, but we are invited to be a follower; an imitator of God as seen through Jesus Christ. When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus, he is using the metaphor as a beloved child imitating her gracious Father. From that assurance of security and that example of love, more love is acted upon as we follow Jesus. We want to be like God as seen through the example of Jesus. When we know that we are beloved, we want or we strive for our actions to match those of Jesus. We want our words to mirror Him as well and we want to carry ourselves, in the good and in the bad, the way Jesus would.
If we take the metaphor of matching a step further, we don’t match our parents every day; that would just be strange and I would be praying for you. And yet, after we say yes to following, we are asked to match Jesus every day, not just around Christmas and Easter time. The metaphor of matching breaks down as all incomplete metaphors do. But let me tell you, the joy of a 2-year-old or 4-year-old who knows that they are matching with their Daddy is pretty special. For that moment, they want to do and be like their Father.
In the second picture above, you see Emmaline eating her waffle right next to Ryan. During breakfast this morning, she scooted her chair over right next to him just so she could more closely be in his presence a little more than normal. I don’t know if it was because of the matching clothes or not, but it serves to make a point. It is indeed a holy moment when we decide that we want to be like Jesus. When we choose to forgive over seeking revenge, when we give sacrificially rather than horde and protect, when we courageously give voice to justice over powerful systems or when we put our reputation on the line to elevate the vulnerable. However we might be striving to match our Heavenly Daddy in the good and in the bad, it really helps if we took some time to scooch up next to Him for a while and just BE there in His Presence. It won’t always be easy, or comfortable, or cute or photogenic; but it will, little by little expand God’s Kingdom on Earth.
I invite you this week to reflect on The Message version of this Scripture below and think about one way in the season of Advent you would like to Match your Heavenly Father more and then let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
“5 1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message