I remember learning to write the alphabet by tracing the letters. Both of our children learned the alphabet by tracing pre-made letters. Today, on his blog (3/23/07 7:43 am), Dave Black talks about Greek studies and tracing the letters:
Our beginning Greek grammar has 26 lessons, which means that we must cover 13 chapters each semester. It is my delightful duty to hornswoggle everyone into learning their lessons. We are discovering that between mastering the Greek alphabet and mastering Greek exegesis is a long and often bumpy road. Often our studies are interrupted by “real life,” difficult personal or family trials. This has happened on many occasions in the lives of my students already this semester. Life is tough, pure and simple. How should we then live when we face suffering? 1 Peter 2:21 has the answer: by following the example (hupogrammos) of Jesus. The word hupogrammos was sometimes used in the ancient world to describe a tablet that contained all the letters of the Greek alphabet from alpha to omega. Students would use it to practice the formation of the Greek characters by tracing its letters.
As disciples of Jesus, we are to use His life as just such a character-forming tablet. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to unwanted difficulties I sometimes feel like I’ve gotten to the letter beta and no further. Like learning Greek, trials may not be pleasant at times, but we can still consider them as faith-building experiences, and may even learn to rejoice in them.
I’ve never thought about discipleship in the context of tracing the letters. But, it is a great analogy… and, apparently Peter thought so as well. How well do our lives fit into the pattern set by Jesus? Do we love as he would love? Do we serve as he would serve? Do we give as he would give? Do we die as he would die?
There are times when my life gets “outside the lines” of what Jesus has laid down for me. That’s when the Master wraps his hand around mine and makes corrections as they are needed. Walking the straight path… not straying to the right or to the left… tracing the lines that Jesus drew for us.
So, the next time we get “to the letter beta and no further”, allow the Spirit to move you back into Christ’s example, and trust his grace and power… and one day, we’ll make it to gamma.