“If humans rescue a baby animal in the wild, the animals is said to be “imprinted.” It accepts the human as its mother. From that point on, it will believe that all good things come from people. It is no longer wild and cannot live on its own. The nature center in my town houses imprinted animals – baby mountain lions, raccoons, and porcupines who rely on humans for food, water, shelter, and protection.
“My morning smartphone ritual was brief – no more than five or ten minutes. But I was imprinted. My day was imprinted by technology. And like a mountain lion cub attached to humans, I’d look for all good things to come from glowing screens.”
– Tish Harrison Warren in Liturgy of the Ordinary
I understand Tish Harrison Warren’s morning ritual. I’m not a morning person. I’m comatose before my wife brings me a coffee (she’s really good). While I drink its warming embrace, I read through the dozen or so emails that have come in overnight. I check some web stats. Now I’m ready to start the day. The birth of our 4th child has taught me there is life in those pre-coffee hours. I stagger round helping my wife and getting the kids ready for the day before anything else. I’ll grab a coffee when I can. I’ll check email later. Sometimes I won’t get to it til the next day. Family is more important than email and stats. But sometimes I miss it. And when I do, I realise the extent I’m imprinted.
Tish’s words are hauntingly beautiful. She poignantly hits on the reality that we are all imprinted. Things shape us. We are challenged as followers of Jesus – are we our lives being imprinted by him? That is, are we becoming increasingly more like Jesus. Is he the one who shapes you? Or something else? Tish Harrison Warren has the wisdom to recognise the mark technology was leaving. She took steps to re-order things. But what about you? What imprints you?
Here’s a few words from Dallas Willard which remind me :
“He [Jesus] invites us to leave our burdensome ways, especially the ‘religious’ ones, and take upon us the yoke of training with him. This is a way of gentleness and lowliness, a way of rest to our souls. It is a way of inner transformation which proves that pulling his load and carrying his burden with him is easy and light (Matt. 11:28-30).”
Jesus offers to gently imprint himself on you. He offers to make you like him. This is what following Jesus is all about. It isn’t about struggling to meet a set of rules to earn his favour. Following Jesus is about imprinting. Or, as Tish might put it, to look for all good things to come from Jesus.