September 26, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Whom do we resemble in the family of God?

Cynthia DewesOne of the most fun things (at least to me) about a new baby is the examination of his or her appearance and behavior, with an eye to family resemblance. “He looks just like his dad!” we exclaim, or “Isn’t she just the picture of her mom when she wrinkles her nose like that?”

It seems to me that women are more apt to do this than men. When asked what he thinks of such assessments, my husband always says, “New babies all look alike.”

And this seems to be the sentiment expressed by most men of my acquaintance despite my clear eyewitness evidence that the baby’s looks and demeanor can be traced to this or that relative.

Women, on the other hand, can spend hours comparing opinions of how the baby is a fresh version of mom or dad or one of the many other possible blood connections. Somehow, it’s comforting to think this is proof that the baby “belongs” with the rest of us. It’s even better when we think we see common traits in an entire family, as in brothers and sisters who “bear a family resemblance.”

Of course, appearance and even behavior can change as a child grows older. Looking at the child of 6, we may see no connection to the person in her baby pictures. Or maybe the placid, sweet little pumpkin of an infant becomes a raging terror by age 3. So we make new diagnoses: She looks more like Grandma now and less like Dad; or, for some reason, Uncle Ben’s personality seems to be emerging. We’re good at adapting our analyses.

Once in a great while, we get a resemblance which is so compelling that everyone, men and women alike, agree that it exists. Such was the case with our son, Peter. While the “family resemblance” thing was pretty evident in the rest of the kids, Peter didn’t seem to look like anyone we could think of.

That is, until we came across a photograph of my husband’s mother taken when she was a young woman. Grandma Irma was shown in profile wearing an attractive 1920s gown and a hat. And lo! It was Peter in a cloche hat! Even my husband could see the resemblance.

Now, it may be one thing to resemble Aunt Bertha, but it’s another to act like her. We can’t always control how we look, but we can control our behavior. If Aunt B. is a generous person, loving and kind, we can try to imitate her. But if she’s mean and ornery, we can make sure the resemblance stops at appearance. This is summarized in comparison family statements like, “She’s a darling, just like Aunt Bertha.” Or (critically), “She’s getting to be just like Aunt Bertha!”

Of course, we can only be ourselves, but we should keep tabs on the direction we’re heading. Maybe we should take family resemblances to heart. When someone says we look just like So-and-So in our family, we might think about what that person is like. Is it someone we admire? Is our resemblance to them accurate in more ways than one? Hmm.

Indeed, we are all made in the image of God. That must mean that if we persevere in pursuing what’s good and right, we may come to resemble God in some small way. We may even get to see God one day in all his glory and perfection. Now, that would be a resemblance to aim for.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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