I never had a little brother. A little sister, yes, but I never had the "Clone Wars" experience that happens between younger and elder brothers.
My sister and I spent most of our growing up years abhorring the "girl ways" and "boy ways" of each other. It wasn't until high school that she began stealing from me regularly--my green polo shirts were an obsession for her.
On the other hand, I watch Jonah mimic every move of his elder brother, Owen. Goslings cannot imprint any stronger on their mother than Jonah has fixated on his elder brother. Toys, baths, even books: where one is, I'm sure to find the other. And Owen's influence on Jonah is so complete, that if I so much as see Jonah doing something illicit--blowing bubbles in his juice or spitting water around the kitchen--I know that the only way to end the behavior is to stop Owen's example first. (I should add that these brothers share EVERYTHING with each other, so Jonah's mimicry seldom instigates sibling battles.)
Last month, Jonah began using his brother's name in a context that had never occurred to me before. We were at supper. Jonah pointed across the table and said, "I want Owen corn."
I thought he was pointing to his brother's plate. "You can't have that," I said. "Owen is going to eat it."
Jonah fussed a bit. Then he pointed again and said, "I want Owen corn!"
I looked at his plate and noticed that it was clean, so I spooned another serving of corn out of the bowl and gave it to him. He smiled broadly and said, "Thankooo."
'Owen corn' hadn't referred to Owen's corn. It had been used in a context that could mean "more" or "another." Jonah had wanted what Owen had on his place--he always wants the things he sees around his brother.
Since then, I have heard Jonah ask for "owen candy" or an "owen piece of bread," even when his brother isn't even around. His passion to have everything like his brother's has added a new adjective to the growing Dittes Family Vocabulary.
Instead of 'keeping up with the Joneses,' we say, "I want owen this and that."
I spend many of my own energies trying to imitate others around me, failing to be satisfied with the incredible blessings I have been given. So long as these desires are in the abstract, they are palatable--even honorable. I want a laptop computer, a Mini Cooper, new windows in my home, money for travel and leisure.
There's nothing wrong with that, is there? Well...there is.
I smile about a two-year-old who imitates every jot and tittle of his big brother's life. Does God smile at me in the same way?
I spend my energies wanting a Lee computer, a Jon car, some Smith windows, and a Meggan trip. I don't put it this way, because I've been tricked into believing that I'm "thinking for myself" in these areas.
In the end, the person I am called to imitate isn't Lee or Jon or Meggan but Jesus. My life must be devoted to the One who acts as my perfect "Big Brother" and beckons me to follow Him.
Could I ask for a Jesus laptop, a Christ car, some Messiah windows or a Savior trip? I could, but it sure would seem funny, since He never had any of those. No, once I have given up the ones I emulate in favor of the One who calls me, I will lose the desire for those worldly things as well.