What does a life worth imitating look like?

In my early 20s I served as a youth pastor in Michigan.  Those were some of the best years of my life! As newlyweds, Sandi and I threw our hearts into those students and God transformed all of us.
But there was one problem…
The church couldn’t afford a full time youth pastor.  So, I had to find another job.  I ended up working on a concrete crew pouring basements, driveways,  sidewalks, etc.  The business owner was a tremendous Christian named Rick.  He was 6’2″, full of muscles, and tough as nails.  Rick also had an incredibly soft heart for God and, in particular, had a passion to teach children God’s word.  He was a gentle giant that I love and respect to this day.
That first year working for Rick consisted of shoveling dirt, pounding nails, washing tools, and pulling the concrete as it came out of the truck with a rake kind of tool that we called, interestingly enough, a “puller”.  I was never allowed on the concrete once it was level and ready to “finish”.  
And so, I would literally sit for hours watching Rick and Jim finish the concrete.  They were on their knees scrubbing the top layer back and forth and then smoothing it out in long arcs with their trowels.  They were artists on that hardening concrete!  
I wanted to learn how to finish concrete, but Rick knew I wasn’t ready yet.  So, I waited…
And then, the day came when he said I could help finish the concrete.  I was so excited – finally my big chance to prove myself – to be counted among the men!  How did I do on that first day?  Honestly, I probably made extra work for Rick as he followed behind me, fixed the messes, and coached me on what I was doing right and the many things I was doing wrong.  
And that is how it went, day after day, week after week.  There were many times I felt like I would never learn how to do it.  It looked so simple, Rick was so good at it!  I was so frustrated!  But slowly, little by little, as I watched Rick working right next to me and as he told me and showed me how to do it, I became a pretty good concrete finisher.
And simply put, that it what it means to have a life worth imitating.  It is a skillfully led life in which you invite others into the day to day realities of following Christ and telling and showing them how to do it.  
The Apostle Paul said “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.  And the imitation usually follows along this progression:
  • I DO –> YOU WATCH 
  • I DO –> YOU HELP
  • YOU DO –> I HELP
  • YOU DO –> I WATCH

There is no learning that leads to transformation apart from imitation.  
About a year after I began learning how to finish concrete Rick told me that he and Jim were going to set up the next job, and he was leaving me to finish the small job we had just poured.  The process was complete, he now trusted me to do what I had watched him do.  He had modeled, coached and equipped me with the knowledge, the tools, and the experience to succeed.  
This is the life of a disciple of Christ.  Are you ready to get started?

4 Responses to What does a life worth imitating look like?

  1. Hey Tom, I too have experience finishing concrete and many other aspects of construction. Most of what I learned was via imitation. What a great metaphor for learning to follow and lead others in Christ.

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