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Where You Start: Imitation, Identity, Intimacy

The Principal's Blog
December 15, 2019

This December blog post discusses Chapter 6 of Rare Leadership, “Where You Start: Imitation, Identity, Intimacy." This is the last chapter before Wilder and Warner delve into details regarding principles and application about the following core aspects of the R-A-R-E Leadership model: 

    Remain Relational;

    Act like Yourself; 

    Return to Joy; and

    Endure Hardship Well.


However, it is well worth the time to read, reflect, and plan on how to grow through this intermediate chapter.  

With the idea and practice of ‘Imitation,” the authors point out how discipleship has always been specifically a part of the Christian life and a best practice for anyone wanting to grow. Finding people throughout one’s life who can provide encouragement and  perspective is key and is at the heart of what the authors call ‘identity groups.’ People who can call you back to ‘your truest self’ and who know what it means for you to act like ‘you’ are key to have in that group. 

The idea and practice of imitation exercises from pp. 109-110 is one example of a place to start. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we all look to others to imitate in order to grow. The authors take this to the next level by articulating an understanding of what happens in one’s mind, soul, and body when one person imitates another. Personally speaking, it was very helpful to visualize what is happening in my own mind--or anyone else’s--when we see another person as an exemplar. As important, it helped me to consider more fully the opportunities in viewing one’s self as an image of Christ--a person created within a Trinitarian relationship with reality (e.g. relationship with one’s self, with other creatures, and our mutual Creator). Warner and Wilder note on p. 110, 

    “Mirror neurons reflect what they see. As a result, they only learn through imitation.” 

Therefore, it is critical who we are imitating. It is also important who our children and students are imitating, which makes it even more important for us to show them a correct portrayal of Christ through our own lives. We, as parents and teachers, may be the most important image of God for them to see. 

The chapter transitions to the next logical step to this conversation--intimacy with God. I encourage each member of our community, even our middle school students, to consider the anecdotes, principles, and wisdom that the authors include here about the opportunity to rest our identities and lives in Christ. 

As Dr. Jim Wilder shared with our community at the RMCA Roundup in early November: 

“Our churches can often teach a set of beliefs and tell us what we need to believe. But what is most important to consider is how we relate to God. Is God glad to be with us only when we are being “good”? Is God glad to be with us when we are bad? Is a cardiologist glad to be with us when our heart is working well or when we are having a heart attack? How do you experience God during your times of trouble? People who relate to God during their times of great stress do not develop post traumatic stress because they do not feel alone, because they have someone with them.” 

Here, in chapter 6, we are gently reminded that God is always with us, waiting for us to come to him, accept His help. Just like our first parents in Eden, he is always close by. We just have to stop running and hiding long enough to listen to His voice. 

The authors point the way forward on how to plan for a more consistent time to listen to God. Starting on p. 114, they use the example of historic spiritual disciplines as a time-honored way to place one’s self in a posture that encourages one to listen. Each of them has a passive and active side. For instance, being still and quiet may seem like a very passive thing. But for anyone who actually tries to carve out 15 minutes--oh, let’s just be honest, 5 minutes--of time to be quiet before God, one quickly finds that it will be one of the hardest things to accomplish. Scripture reading, gratitude, journaling, and sharing are all mentioned but that list is not exhaustive. The main point is to be intentional about seeking to be with God. 

The chapter ends with the header, “Transformation Takes Time.” For anyone who is seeking to change the trajectory of one’s life, marriage, parenting, education, or career, this is going to take a lifetime to cultivate. By now, we all know that life is not a 100 meter sprint; it is an ultra-marathon run with many others, both living here on earth and in heaven. Some of those co-heirs with Christ are found here within our RMCA community. I encourage each of us to look for such a person, and to be such a person, for another adult and for at least our own children, if not for others. 

Like past chapters, this one includes an epilogue of sorts through the “Brain Science for RARE Leadership” section on pp. 120-121. The discussion here about ‘joy bonds’ and how our entire being, designed to run on the fuel of joy, weaken and fall apart when using any other fuel (e.g. fear, anger, lust, envy, despondency) is a very powerful one. Read as many times as needed to capture and remember that idea. The call for leaders to “find and strengthen the engine their group will use” is something that each of us, in our capacity as a leader in this community, needs to consider. 

Christmas blessings,


Brandon L. Byrd