A friend of the family, Uncle Charlie, was a Jewish, Polish, former taxi driver who went through Alcoholics Anonymous and stayed in a shared two-bedroom apartment, as he pieced his life together, working an administrative job for an international bank. He had one son, whom he tried to parent, but by that time, Jeff was in his teens. They had begun to mend and build the father-and-son relationship, but it had it’s ruts and bumps, as many relationships do when they try to make up for lost time.
Uncle Charlie was an avid smoker. In his words, it was better than “drinking himself stupid.” It tapered off only slightly when he got the cancer diagnosis and he paused on the tobacco when he went through chemo and radiation. I don’t know how he managed to go through treatment and work part-time. I wasn’t that strong.
I was just coming out of my own chemo/rad treatments and was finally able to sit through an entire church service. It was in my heart to invite Uncle Charlie to church. He has visited the church before, and after hearing the Gospel one morning, he joked to me afterwards in his tight-lipped monotone, “Yeah, that was really good. I almost came forward and became a Christian.” Back then, I took it as another comment of the classic Uncle Charlie “almost” jokes. He had a few of those. Even from his childhood, and usually, his bewilderment was what captured the humor of it.
And I thought, “Okay, good. Another time. I’ll invite him another time.” In March, my mother called to tell me that Uncle Charlie passed away. In his last days, he was in a rehabilitation facility, unable to walk, waking up occasionally and getting the days of the week mixed up.
I don’t know what a ton of bricks feel like. But I relate to that expression. Because it’s a numbing weighted feeling that comes over a person when they get news that stuns them.
I thought, “No. I missed it.” I had a chance to invite Uncle Charlie to church. I missed it. I waited too long. I wanted him to know that God really really loved him and he didn’t have to hold on to that guilt of not being able to be the full-time dad to his son, or identify himself as a recovering alcoholic. That he could still find that newness of life and peace and love in Christ!
But I took too long. I missed that chance. And I resolved in my heart, “Never again.”
I am not losing a chance again. I will do my best to direct people to the love of God, with every chance I get.
The Lord strengthened my heart and He allowed me to frame that lost chance properly in my heart so that it didn’t become a stumblingblock. He turned whatever brick it could have been and, instead, He lit a fire. You know, we may not always be able to love and counsel – but we can be ready.
We never know how much time we have, for ourselves or with other people. I finally understood why it’s so important to act on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, when He says, “Now! Go get them. Invite them to church. Let them know God loves them.”
Do you have an Uncle Charlie in your life? Is there something you can do to direct them to the love of God? I pray that you fulfill that chance.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV)