Almost as quickly as a zebra is born, it disappears. Do you know this? The wobbly, striped baby and his momma steal away from the herd for the first two days of the foal’s life. The two stay close to one another, limiting direct contact with other zebras so he can learn to identify her by sight, smell and sound. This process, this special time is called “Imprinting.”
Stripes are as unique to each zebra as a fingerprint is to you and me. That makes imprinting a powerful and important time for the baby to learn where he comes from and to whom he belongs.
Sitting nose to nose with his momma, the baby zebra will notice the rich blackness in her markings. He will become aware that her white hair is soft, almost creamy. He will learn how her stripes drip into a diamond pattern just between her beautiful, big eyes. Sitting this close to her, he will breathe in her scent and unknowingly lock it into his heart.
When the imprinting is done, momma will release her baby back into the herd. Can you imagine the overwhelm of black and white and neighs and manes? That’s where the imprinting is key – in the midst of the chaos, he can lift his head, look for the diamond on her face, the cream in her stripes and breathe in until he finds his momma.
Leave it to one of my favorite bible teachers, Priscilla Shirer, to point out the way imprinting is just as important for us and our connection with Jesus. I’ll let that settle in with you a moment. I just think it’s so good.
Taking time to focus in on the character and promises of the One who loves us the most is powerful imprinting for you and me as we head out into the “herd.”
So, let’s do it. Right now. Together, let’s steal away for a moment with the One who loves us the most to get up close to His voice, His breath, His words.
If you’re walking, slow down. If you’re waiting in carpool, pull your windows up. If you’re waiting on an appointment, this will only take a moment.
Rather than list a bunch of scriptures, let’s pay attention to this one story from the Gospel of Mark:
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you!” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”Mark 10:46-52
What do you notice about Jesus in this short story? He was traveling. He was with his disciples plus a bunch more. Jesus sought out friends and welcomed everyone. Also, how about Bartimaeus? The reputation of Jesus’ power was so compelling that this blind, beggar would be bold enough to shout out his name. And, Jesus hears him and sees beyond Bartimaeus’ blindness, stench, dirt straight through to his willing heart. If a cloak was all that man owned, Bartimaeus threw it aside the moment Jesus called his name. Now, this could have been a fantastical scene of power, drawing all sorts of attention with a big booming voice and fanfare. But, instead, Jesus called Bartimaeus in close to ask him a question. “What do you want me to do for you?” I wonder if the blind man was breathing in the scent of his Lord and recording the inflection of Jesus’ voice on his heart. Deflecting any honor, Jesus tells him, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Immediately, he could see. And released into the bustling world, what does Bartimaeus do? He looks for the one who loves him most – Jesus.
This world is crazy and awful and hard and loud and fun and beautiful.
When you find it’s all too much, try doing what we did here just now. Choose a story from the gospel of Matthew or John and pull out the details that tell you about Jesus. Or ask what Jesus is saying about you. If you feel like you don’t know who you are; read through Ephesians 1-3 a couple times to understand how purposeful and spectacular and powerful and necessary God says you are. If you’re suffering through a series of hard blows and find yourself asking why over and over; then read through the story of Job. If you have a lot of feelings, google a Psalm about those feelings and read what you find. You have a God who is for you, beside and waiting to hear from you. You have eternity written on your heart. And His plans for you are good. Take that into the herd.
Don’t let the noise around you confuse you. Don’t let the chaos make your legs buckle.
Steal away with the One who loves you the most and let imprinting be the way the light gets in.