Friday In the Third Week of Lent

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

This proverbial expression dates from the early 19th century, although versions of it that paraphrased the same thought existed well before then. The first of these alternate versions is found in a biography of Marcus Aurelius by Jeremy Collier and André Dacier, titled Emperor Marcus Antoninus his conversation with himself, 1708:

“You should consider that Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship, and that the Gods had much rather Mankind should Resemble, than Flatter them.”

The famous book, The Imitation of Christ (Latin: De Imitatione Christi) by Thomas à Kempis is a Christian devotional book. It was first composed in Latin ca.1418-1427. It is a handbook for spiritual life arising from the Devotio Moderna movement, where Kempis was a member. The Imitation is perhaps the most widely read devotional work next to the Bible, and is regarded as a devotional and religious classic. Apart from the Bible, no book has been translated into more languages than the Imitation of Christ.

I don’t know why the word “imitation” popped into my head this morning. Perhaps, it’s because during Lent I look for guidance, and the example I choose to follow is Christ, as Sufi’s might choose Rumi, or Buddhist might look to Siddhartha, etc. Others may choose during Lent a more modern example such as Gandhi or Mother Teresa to imitate. Yet choosing to imitate is encumbered by human fear, selfishness, and doubt. I, for example, simply cannot love as perfectly as Jesus did.  As my friend Tom may say he can’t love as Rumi did.

Why don’t we stop? Why don’t we admit we are incapable of loving unconditionally. Rarely do we, in other dimensions of our lives, persevere and succeed in reaching impossible goals. Why not lower our expectations or find another pursuit, one in which we can succeed. Like in golf lowering one’s goal to shoot par, or give up the game forever.

The answer lies in the fact that we are not engaged in a human endeavor, but a divine one. We strive to be people who “live no longer for ourselves” but often we turn out to be not very good at it. The good news as Luis says, “Our efforts are good enough for God.” So during Lent, no matter how often we fail, how often we fall short, we get back up and try again. In football we called people who tried and tried and never gave up – “pluggers.” God loves pluggers.

About the author

Webb Hubbell, former Associate Attorney General of The United States, is an author and speaker. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller.

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