My first pastor passed into the arms of Jesus last week. Our family attended his church during the first four years of my life before we moved from Milwaukee to Cleveland. I don’t remember much from those impressionable years, but I do remember my pastor.
I don’t remember his sermons, although my parents tell me they were profound. I don’t remember his leadership, although the ministry he built was significant. I don’t remember his writing, although his books can still be found everywhere.
I remember his bear hugs. Each Sunday after service, I would run down the aisle and jump into his arms for an enormous squeeze. He would laugh loudly and give me the kind of rough and tumble hug that only a little boy can fully appreciate. I can still feel his scratchy British whiskers on my face. I looked forward to those bear hugs every week.
Sometimes we wonder what it takes to make a difference in someone’s life. For me, it was a bear hug. I returned every week, discovered church to be a safe place, and experienced the love of Jesus, all through a simple bear hug.
The world will miss Stuart Briscoe for his achievements and accolades. I will miss him for his bear hugs. He was the first pastor to show me the heart of Jesus.
You are loved, more than you know.