I sit across from him at breakfast. It’s our once a month tradition. He orders the big bad bacon burger. His regular. I order sausage links and fries with mustard for dipping. Outside it’s dripping rain and inside the AC makes it chilly, even though it’s the middle of summer.
While we wait for our food, we sip coffee and talk about everything tangible. Drones, a car makeover, travel, and mechanics. He throws out quips from the comedies he watches. I laugh, only half getting the jokes. He talks about his friends. The car he wants to buy. I talk about funny flight attendants. We joke about the amount of calories in the creamer we are putting in our coffee. And how his 2000 calorie burger will earn him a needed workout later in the day.
I ponder this boy in front of me. This kid nearly two decades younger than me, with sandy curls and a frank, open face. I remember the day he was born. The youngest of our tribe of eleven. He’s the kid with more emotions than any of his sisters. The kid who has more ideas than maybe all of us put together. Yet in family gatherings, he’s often lost in the crowd, silent on the edges. It’s sacred to get a snapshot of his truer self, here in a cafe booth on a July morning.
He’s in the throes of adolescence. I am fast headed for mid life. Yet he talks to me easily, like he did when I taught him to talk as a two year old. We share uncomplicated laughter and undemanding silence. But our conversation stays on the surface. I initiated this breakfast tradition in hopes that it would be a chance to encourage him and walk with him on a deeper level. As a big sister, I worry about him. There’s a lot in his life he doesn’t talk about. I pray for him silently in spaces between conversing. Ten years ago, maybe even five I would have introduced a spiritual question. Probed about how his devotional life is going. As if this is the measure of our spirituality. But sometimes it takes a kid to reteach us the simplicity of Christianity. Sometimes it takes something surprising to teach us how to live.
Of course there’s a place for probing, asking, challenging. But today I know in my core, that isn’t God’s invitation. I stay in the present. I enter into the sacred space of enjoying this young man in front of me as a person, with no agenda. I am learning to see Jesus in the moment and in the common tangible things of life these days. To be present with people. To lean in and learn from them.
It’s on the ride home that I hear and see Him — Jesus in the life of my kid brother. After the bill is paid and we’re cruising the last couple miles between town and home I’m kind of zoning into the day ahead.
“You know Johnny?” my little brother is chatting about different people and I am not paying too much attention.
“He’s my friend.” I’m listening now. Curious. Not many teens find time for an elderly person tucked away in a nursing home.
“And he’s a christian,too” I can tell there is meaning in those words for him.
“That’s cool.” I say. “Does that make you look forward to going to nursing home service on Sunday afternoons?”
“Yea, I always look forward to seeing him. He always chooses song 71 in the songbook. Amazing Grace,” he’s grinning. I can hear it in his voice. “Sometimes if he’s not there for the first half of the service I choose the song for him.”
I glimpse the beauty and it catches my breath. The authentic care of a young man for someone decades older than himself. Someone tucked away and half forgotten but with a wealth of wisdom to give. The bigness of this kid’s heart shouldn’t surprise me, nor should his value for someone much older than him. But somehow it does. Perhaps because it’s rare in young people to have this depth. What thirteen year old remembers an old man’s favorite hymn, chooses it just for him when he can’t be there? Goes to a nursing home service on Sunday because he wants to? Calls an elderly person his friend?
We pull into the driveway. “Thanks so much for breakfast. It was good!” his gray eyes are bright with gratitude.
“Of course,” We part ways with the traditional fist bump and he’s off to live his day.
As I drive away I realize that I am incredibly grateful. Grateful for the grace of a thirteen year old kid showing me how to live. Today he’s showed me Jesus in a powerfully simple way. Over a big bad bacon burger, without any effort at all.