The woman with the soft white hair and twinkly blue eyes closed our meeting with her usual farewell. “When you leave here tonight, take what you received and then check in with the Holy Spirit. He’ll guide you. Some of what you learned may be for now and some may be for years from now.”
With those words in my mind and heart, I left the weekly discipleship class until the following Wednesday. As a new Christian in my early forties, I had much to learn and absorb and Dr. Grace Robley was the perfect mentor at that time of my life. I have never known anyone before or since that so clearly emulated the character of Christ—and yet was so altogether human at the same time. She struggled with weight and faced challenges in her relationship with an adult daughter. But no matter what, she kept her eyes on Christ. To this day I treasure the wisdom Grace shared and thank God for putting her on my path when I most needed what she had to offer.
Today when I think about emulating Christ’s character I don’t assign myself an impossible list of things to do or ways to be. I reflect on how I can show love, as Christ loves me. Many people in my life have been an example of that love. Some, without knowing it, have affected me profoundly throughout my adult life.
As I renew my commitment this year to become more like Christ, I want to acknowledge those individuals who showed me Christ’s character, rather than merely talking about it. You probably can point to men and women in your life who have done the same for you. I hope you’ll want to take a moment to think about them and be reminded of how they have emulated the character of Christ in your life.
My kindergarten teacher
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths . . . (Isaiah 2:3)
Sister Mary St. Felician was a young nun in the Catholic school I attended for Kindergarten and first grade. As I look back now, some of her theology was questionable, such as having the students sit on only half their seats so their guardian angels could have the other half. However, what I most remember was her wisdom in dealing with wiggly five-year-olds. When she called us to the front of the room for reading groups we each received a lollipop. No one was left out—regardless of his or her reading ability. Sister never shamed or judged. She simply loved us and she told us over and over that God loved us. I believed her.
My fourth grade teacher
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither––whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:3).
This pint-sized woman with a face full of wrinkles and standing only as high as the tallest nine-year-old in the class, smiled at the students from the moment we walked in till the bell rang at three o’clock. She told us stories from her childhood to illustrate history and English and social studies and she encouraged us as we struggled with fractions and history dates and science formulas. She was key to my becoming a published writer decades later. I’ll never forget the day she called me to her desk after I had turned in a story. I watched her paste a gold start on top of it, and listened as she proclaimed for my ears only that someday I would see one of my books on a library shelf. She was right! Here I am, the author of over seventy published books. That dear teacher believed in me and the talent God had given me. “Write the words God gives you,” she said. And I have.
My Aunt Betts
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful (Psalm 68:3).
Beautiful, tall, slender Aunt Betty, who preferred to be called “Betts,” lived in California while I was growing up in the Chicago area. So when she came to town, my sister and I were almost more excited than we were on Christmas morning. Betts’ visits always included ice cream sundaes, manicures, board games, talking and laughter, bedtimes stories and gentle backrubs. I was never so loved and encouraged and appreciated, as I was during those delicious summer visits with dear Aunt Betts. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was with her it was easy to be more like Christ—because she showed me how—without so much as a word .
My friend Fran
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6).
Thirty years older than I at the time we met, Fran was one of those solid people who displayed the character of Christ in word and deed. She was quick to listen, slow to advise (except when I asked her to) and reliable when it came to pointing me to God’s Word for everything I needed. Her wisdom and humble guidance stuck to my ribs—like a good oatmeal breakfast––and lasted the whole day. I heard the love of Christ in her words when she helped me with marital woes, in my relationship with my adult kids, and in how to get along with a cranky neighbor. After I poured out my heart to Fran, she filled it up with love. Then I could go out and spread that love to everyone I met—from the clerk at the dry cleaners to the teller at the bank, from my family to my students and everyone in between.
I ask myself now, “Can we really become more like Christ?” Absolutely! It starts and ends with love. With a few good people to encourage us, the Word of God to turn to, and the desire to do so, we can’t fail. It’s a matter of just doing it—starting right now and living it throughout the new year.