Quite recently I had the bittersweet experience of saying goodbye to my 91-year-old uncle. It was bittersweet because the sadness was mixed with great memories and the comfort of knowing that he loved God and was committed to Christ with all his heart.
When I remember my uncle I am struck by the reality that in many ways he didn’t fit the model of piety that many Christians use as a litmus test of faith and faithful Christian living. Still, I learned a lot of lessons about life, love and faith from my Uncle Mack, and I thought I’d share them here.
- You can be a faithful Christian and still enjoy a beer while watching a Braves game. My uncle could never quite understand why, despite his active church membership and love for all people that went beyond the lip service common to most believers, there were among the faithful, those who insisted he be a teetotaler as a witness of his faith.
- Love that doesn’t act isn’t love at all. My uncle loathed the tendency of many Christians to feign concern and offer prayers to people who needed food in their refrigerator. Showing your faith by your works and all that good stuff.
- You can be a Christian and still enjoy a good clean joke. He never understood the lack of laughter that characterized many church people.
- Fatherhood is serious business, but your kids can take the medicine a lot better if they see their father’s lighter side from time to time.
- You can love your country and serve it, even if there are a lot of things that need to change. Having served in WW2, he always had a zeal for his country and love for the military and those who serve in it.
- Dancing is not a sin, even dancing to the likes of Frankie Beverly and Maze, which he would still do, even at age 89, if he heard the song Joy and Pain.
- Church isn’t a place you go to out of religious duty. Christ called us to get our hands dirty, serving others.
- Never be ashamed of who you are and where you came from. Past trials are part of the tapestry that make us. Just don’t forget to preface your testimony with, “If it had not been for the Lord…”
I love that my uncle, a devoted husband of 60 years and father of 10, left a strong legacy and a lifetime of memories for his family to look back on and smile. I will miss Uncle Mack.
I learned a lot from him, and after reading this, I hope you have too.