Dare to Disciple
“Unca Bubba! Unca Bubba!”
He runs down the church hallway, as fast as chubby little legs will carry him. With sandy blonde hair spilling over a cherubic face, his bright brown eyes and clinched fists express fierce determination, an 18-month-old on a mission!
I smile as I watch him run the gauntlet of legs, narrowly avoiding several collisions with unsuspecting adults. He continues the relentless search until his intent gaze reaches my brown dress shoes.
Immediately, he stops in his tracks. Eyes lift slowly until they reach my face, and a broad grin spreads across his face. “Unca B-u-u-u-u-bba!” he drawls with unmistakable Tennessee accent before dashing forward to lock his arms around my knees.
Stooping, I pick him up. He throws his arms around my neck and snuggles close to my shoulder. “Unca Bubba,” he chirps happily.
“How are you this morning, Ethan?” I ask.
“Down!” he replies.
I can’t help but chuckle. The mission is complete. The moment his toes touch the tiles, he scampers off to Sunday School for the next big adventure.
I look up to see his mother, arms crossed, shaking her head with a rueful smile. “I hope you realize he has been asking for you non-stop since he woke up this morning. It sure makes it hard to carry on a conversation at breakfast.”
I catch myself whistling as I walk away toward my own Sunday School room. It’s a good day to be at church!
So, now you know. The secret is out. I’m Uncle Bubba—also known as Uncle Eric, Mister Eric, Brother Eric, sometimes Uncle Jen to my wife’s Sunday School toddlers, and even Uncle Buttercup on occasion. (That’s a long story, one best saved for another editorial.) In many ways, these names mean more to me than any other titles but husband and father. Let me explain.
For more than two decades, I have been privileged to take part in the lives and spiritual development of children at Bethlehem Church. I have watched them grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have taught their Sunday School classes, prayed with their parents, celebrated their salvation, wept over their bad choices, and rejoiced to see them repent and grow in Christ.
Today, many of those kids have children of their own, and the endless cycle has begun again—from a hug in the hallway to mature fellow-laborer for Christ. It’s a process you may know better as discipleship, and I’m proud to play a part. They call me Uncle Bubba. What do they call you?
About the Writer: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.