Lord, I Want to Be Like Jesus

My parents still live in the house I grew up in, on the 3+ acres at the outskirts of our small hometown. I must have been about 3 or 4 years old when our dad built a tall oversize swingset for my four sisters and me on a large grassy space behind the house from 4X6 posts, a 6X8 beam, some plank boards, and lengths of chain. The bar at the center that made it stable and sturdy was for acrobatic stunts, like hanging from our knees, unless like me you were afraid to let go. The beam across the top was so high and the chains holding the swing seats so long, that, if you got a good run and jump to start, and you finally got enough pump action going you felt like you were flying—almost able to reach the top branches of the trees if you stretched out with your toes.

I remember one of those early childhood afternoons; it must have been late spring because the day was so green with sunshine behind the soft alder leaves. I was “flying” solo in the back yard, singing out loud a song I had learned in Sunday School. At first it was just about swinging, singing in rhythm with the hard work of pumping. But I remember singing this verse over and over again. And gradually the words began to mean something, and I became quite earnest, and pumped the swing high enough to feel a little scared because what I sang, as much as I could, I meant it:

Lord, I want to be like Jesus ina my heart, ina my heart.
Lord, I want to be like Jesus ina my heart.
Ina my heart. Ina my heart.
Lord, I want to be like Jesus ina my heart.

The process of spiritual formation in Christ answers that prayer. It is what “makes me” like Jesus in my heart. The “want to be” was and is pure gift and grace. That day it shimmered green off of thousands of leaves glowing in sunlight. But God’s presence and action in the lifetime of days that have followed are evidence of the unreasonable and abundant grace that has been available and necessary for me to make progress in my becoming day by day, and by degrees, more like Jesus “ina my heart.”