That Was My Uncle’s Name

I meet a little girl about the age of 5 or 6 this past week that really impacted my life. I meet her while we were running a soccer clinic for a Boys & Girls club in one of the less fortunate areas of town. Her name was Makala and she was a sweet little girl with a big gap tooth smile, as she was missing her front all four of her front teeth, and one of those infectous laughs that can cause you to crack up from just watching her giggle.

I introduced myself to Makala and shook her hand. The short interaction that took place after that has been bouncing around in my brain and heart all week. As I shook her hand and told her my name her eyes lit up with excitement because we had an immediate connection. She looked at me with that big gap toothed smile and said, “That was my uncle’s name…” at which I became very excited because I thought that I would be able to relate to her on a different level now that we had a connection. But then Makala’s face, the same face that seemed to be filled with joy and excitement, dropped as she continued to speak before I could interrupt her words. Makala continued with “… but he had to die. The cops had to shoot him.”

As those words poured out of Makala’s mouth my heart broke at the pain that I heard in her voice, but more so at the reality that this little girl had to live in. A beautiful, innocent little girl at the age of 5 or 6 had a construct of life that was filled with pain and death. I started to ponder this situation and it wrecked me completely. Makala may never know or understand what our Savior means in Matthew 15 when He says, “Greater Love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The only death that she sees in her small world right now is the kind of death that comes at gunpoint when the cops have to shoot her uncle because he was living a self-absorbed, wreckless life. She constantly sees people taking other people’s lives through violence, hate, and selfishness; but will she ever see someone “lay down” their life for her. Makala may never understand how deeply loved she is by her Savior because she may never see people in this world that would rather lay down there life than take it from others for their own gain.

Jesus is very bold in stating this as He knows that He is on his way to the cross to lay down his life for you and I. He came near so that Makala would know that even in the middle of death and violence that He would and did lay down His life for her. And what disturbs me the most is that I do not have this love for even my friends, much less Makala. While her story broke my heart, would I really be willing to lay down my life for her? Would I be willing to consider her needs more highly than my own? Would I be willing to even think that her life is more precious than mine?  The more I dwell on this the more I think that the answer is no.

So how can I truly be a follower of Christ when in my heart I know right now that I don’t have this “greater Love” that He speaks of for my fellow man? How do I go from loving myself and my desires to seeing others’ needs more highly than my own? How do I love with a reckless abandon so that the little, innocent Makalas in the world might catch a glimpse of Jesus in how I lay down my desires and life for her?

Do I really have to die to myself so that I can love others fully? I think that is a question that all of us need to ponder and wrestle through as we continue on with this journey in Christ. May it never be that my own selfishness leads to a little girl like Makala seeing me and knowing that I selfishly took from her as she looks in my eyes and says, “That was my uncle’s name.”

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