Uncle Bruce and Agape Love

A birth defect disrupted my Uncle Bruce’s intellectual development at about the age of six. Bruce lived to the age of 80 – a 6 year old child in an adult body. Uncle Bruce was our perpetual playmate at Grandma’s house when we were little. He had a rich fantasy life, mostly centered around being a doctor. He often wore a doctor’s coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck. While we chatted, he would keep up a side conversation with someone only he could see. He had an old “Playmobile” – a vintage toy dashboard and steering wheel – that he used to transport his taxi patrons to their destinations. He rode his bicycle up and down the driveway, sirens blaring, taking accident victims to the hospital. He loved office supplies. He set up his office wherever he was staying. He always had a notepad and a pencil. He could write his name and a few words. When I was a child, Uncle Bruce gave me the same birthday present every year – a little booklet he had made out of folded blank paper, stapled together on one edge. “From Bruce” was always written on the front. Some time in my 30s, I was startled with the realization that, though Bruce never complained or had a shred of self-pity, he longed to be able to do what everyone around him took for granted or even complained about. He wanted to drive a real car to a real job everyday. He wanted his own home. He wanted to read and write. Most of all, I think, he wanted to play Euchre with the adults at family parties. Instead, he sat at the corner of the table or at a TV tray with his own deck of cards pretending to be part of the game.

Even though most of us will not leave a much of a mark on history, God has given us abilities to leave our mark on people’s hearts. Uncle Bruce left his mark on the hearts of all who knew him. He had the deep Faith of a child. Though he couldn’t read, he carried his Bible everywhere. He jumped at every chance to attend church on Sundays. He was a guileless open book. And he was gifted! He had a gift for keeping alive the memories of those who had passed out of his and our lives. He kept their names in his heart, cherishing them all – even the grumpy misanthropes, the always-drunken, and the ne’er-do-wells that dot our family tree. He was the personification of Agape because he took people at face value, unaware of their faults, prejudices, or misspent lives.

CS Lewis said this, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal… It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit… our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

We all understand that if Jesus came today he would invite the oppressed, the downtrodden, beggars, thieves, prostitutes, and con artists to His Banqueting Table. But would we be shocked if the Lord also invited the guy down the street who never mows his lawn, the rude woman at the supermarket, the person driving the truck with a Confederate flag displayed in the back window, and even anti-vaxxers?! Would we think twice about going if we knew we were going to be seated next to a Neo-Nazi or a Klan member? I guess my question is this – How can we bring people to the Lord if we can’t see past who they are on the surface to their immortal souls? If we keep a safe distance from people we have deemed “Haters” doesn’t that reinforce their hatred?

Mother Teresa was always “Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time” It’s easy for us to see the Face of God in a 12-year-old child, who after an arduous journey, has finally crossed our southern border. It is much harder to see God in somebody with opposite political views, in people who have caused harm and suffering to others, or in someone who just rubs us the wrong way.

Agape Love for others only comes through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Uncle Bruce didn’t have a big ego to get in the Holy Spirit’s Way. I do! But being aware of this failing might be more than half the battle…

Holy Spirit, ennable me to let the Lord’s Love for His Flock flow through me despite my personal feelings. Enable me to engage respectfully with those, whom I have deemed to be the “awfulest” of Your people, instead of keeping them at arms length (and Forgive me for that 😒). Help me to see them the Way You see them. Lord, Help me to meet others where they are as You have Met me where I am! Help me to Shine the Light of Your Salvation into every heart and lead them to You.

Amen! ✝️❤️😊

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