Sun, Apr 18, 2021

Becoming what we are

Duration:12 mins 51 secs

“You’re so much like your father!”

As a kid, I can’t tell you how many times I heard someone say that––

either a family member or an old family friend.

Growing up, everyone kept telling me how much I took after dad.

They would say that I was the spitting image of him––

that you couldn’t have told us apart at the same age.

Of course, I couldn’t see it.

and I certainly didn’t want to at the time.

But now…

much later in life…

I can recognise and accept the obvious resemblances.


            [Show a large photo of Dad at my age]


This is a photo of my Dad, from when he was in his mid-forties…

and it’s the closest one to me age-wise that I have.

I don’t know how well you can see it from back there…

but I think there are definitely some common features.

There’s the oval face…

which, in my case, was more obvious when I was in my forties and a bit heavier than I am now.

There’s certainly the same big bottom lip…

the large protruding nose…

the pendulous earlobes…

the sunken eyes… 

and similar eyebrows and chin.

Despite what people use to tell me as a kid, we’re not identical–– 

not by a long way––

but there are definite resemblances.


And yet… 

when people were commenting on the resemblance between Dad and me…

I don’t think that they were just speaking in physical terms.

It wasn’t just about the way that we looked…

or the common physical features that we shared.

It was also because Dad and I shared certain personal traits and mannerisms.

We were both very opinionated.

We were both convinced that we were always right.

We were both constantly dreaming up brilliant new ideas––

even if those ideas were better on paper than in reality…

and the execution of those brilliant ideas left a lot to be desired.

We were both stubborn and pig-headed…

determined to master anything that we tried…

and we couldn’t stand it when something got the better of us.

At times, we were both far too serious and intense.

Although I, at least, have a sense of humour!

I can’t remember anyone ever understanding, let alone laughing at, any of Dad’s jokes––

maybe his made more sense in Dutch!

We were also both chronic insomniacs—

indeed, that’s a classic ‘de Vos’ trait.

Nearly all of Dad’s family are poor sleepers.

Growing up, I don’t think that I ever had more than six hours sleep a night––

and that hasn’t changed much as I have gotten older.

But, I also discovered––

when I was sixteen and we went to Holland––

that I share several distinct mannerisms with my grandfather…

whom I had never met––

mannerisms which Dad, himself, didn’t share.


Family resemblances––

we all have them, don’t we?

In some way or another, we all take after our father or mother…

or our grandfathers or grandmothers––

in stature…

in shape…

and in appearance.

But those family resemblances aren’t just physical

and they aren’t just a matter of genes.

Family resemblances can also be seen in less tangible ways.

They can be seen in common gestures and habits––

the way that we look when we’re angry;

the way that we behave when we’re tired;

the way that we walk or run or stand;

the way that we laugh or cry, and when;

the way that we hold a knife and fork or drink a cup of tea;

the way that we squeeze the toothpaste tube.

Family resemblances can also be seen in common values and attitudes––

our attitude towards work and family;

our attitude towards politics or religion;

our attitude towards money;

a commitment to helping others or to offering hospitality;

a common support of the same football team;

a love of dogs or cats;

a passion for gardening, cooking, sport, the arts, or things mechanical.

As members of a family, we also share common memories, customs, and traditions––

perhaps family holidays at the beach;

or a particular way in which birthdays are celebrated;

or the quirky rituals that we engage in at Christmas time––

like the way that presents are bought and exchanged.

There are the little idiosyncratic ways that we tend to do things…

which probably seem quite strange to non-family members…

but they’re all part of who we are as a family…

they’re part of what we share in common.

There are similar gestures and habits…

shared values and attitudes…

common customs and practices.

I’m sure that you can think of some in your own families.

Gestures, habits, values, attitudes, customs, and practices––

family resemblances––

that you have acquired over time…

and through time spent together.

Family resemblances that come from having grown up together…

from observing other family members…

from imitating parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings––

often in a subconscious effort to fit in and to belong.

And, usually, the more time that we spend together…

the more alike that we become.

The more time that we spend together… 

the more that we take on the same characteristics.

Sure, there are times when we disagree or argue––

passionately, even vigorously.

There are certainly times when most of us would like to disown our families…

or to swap them.

But, often, those disagreements arise because we’re actually too much alike–– 

don’t they?


Family resemblances––

we all have them.

There are physical resemblances…

but there are also the shared values, attitudes, and traits…

common customs and habits…

all of which shape who we are…

all of which define who we are…

all of which identify us.

Observe my behaviour…

then observe that of my family…

and, no doubt, you will see where I get it from.

Family resemblances––

we all have them.

We all take after those to whom we’re close.

We all acquire the characteristics of those with whom we spent the most time.


“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed”. 

The author of First John acknowledges that our being children of God is an act of pure grace…

in a sense, an adoption…

not something innate.

But his concern is how we live out our relationship as children of God.

There are nuances in the original Greek here that don’t come across in the English.

And, while it’s a little clunky, it’s more like…

“Now, we are being God’s children, and not yet is revealed what we shall become”.

The emphasis, here, is on our being children of God––

in the way that we live now––

with the hope that we will become more like what Christ is like now…

in the future.

And, in light of that future hope, he stresses that we “purify” ourselves…

in the way that Christ “is pure”.

In other words, despite being––

metaphorically speaking––

adopted children of God…

we’re challenged to imitate Christ until we become more like him:

to do what he does…

to offer healing and hope, as he does…

to strive for justice and peace, as he does…

to seek to love, as he does––

practically and visibly… 

in the way that we live, not just in what we think and say.

We’re challenged to demonstrate a family resemblance to Jesus— 

and one that would be unmistakeably recognised.

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