I was not always a big guy. In fact, there was a long time where I was smaller than a large number of the people I was around. I got picked on a lot. I would dream of being big enough to reach the high shelves, lift heavy things, shoot basketballs, and be able to defend myself from the bullies. When the commercials of the kid who was invisible to his crush was boasting that he was drinking his milk and some day she would notice him came onto the television, you better believe I started drinking my milk.

“You may not see me now…”

As I got older, I did get bigger. More than I ever knew was possible. I am the biggest in my family (not counting my wife’s side where there are a few other tall men).

So, you might think that I got my nickname Big Mike from being a big guy way back then…but you’d be wrong. I did have names thrown at me by bullies but being Big Mike isn’t one of them.

I recently spoke to my Facebook friends that I don’t like being called “Large Michael” or “Grande Miguel” or any other form of Big Mike that isn’t Big Mike. I had some teens say these at a camp a couple of years ago and they stuck because people thought it was funny and they still like to say them when they see me. I don’t think they mean harm by the names, but I don’t like it because I didn’t get the name Big Mike just because I am big, they are kind of mean things to say, and it does take away the reason why I am called Big Mike.

No, my current moniker is from a different time and I promised some people I would tell this story:

In 2001, I was hired to be the Youth Minister for the Northside Church of Christ in Bonham, Texas. I was seeking to follow God’s call in ministry and found that Texas was going to be my start in full time ministry. We enjoyed our time in Texas and met many really nice people and made a couple of good friends there. One of our friends was the Minister and his wife. They were around our age and we had some fun together and my wife and I learned a lot about the South from them. They were also a foster family for children. I heard about a lot of the kids they had had in their home over the years.

One day they got a call about a couple of sibling boys that needed a home. So these young boys “S” and “J” (names confidential) came to live with them for a while. These boys had some issues because of abuse and neglect. One of those issues was that they had hearing loss and spoke with a difficult to understand timbre to their voices much like a deaf person who speaks. I think it was due to malnutrition, but I cannot remember. In any case, the church there loved those boys and we treated them as family.

One day I heard our minister telling me a story about an event we were having and the older boy “S” asked him about what was going to be happening at the church and asked him, “Is Big Mike going to be there?” and he replied, “Yes, Big Mike is going to be there. He will be leading singing.” And that made “S” feel comfortable enough to come and attend the event. I still remember the sights and sounds of that moment he told me this.

That made my heart so warm and I teared up a little. This young boy felt like he could be safe and comfortable at the church because I was going to be there. From then on, he and everyone else at the church called me Big Mike. And it stuck. I embraced the name. I don’t use it to be better than anyone. I don’t use it because I am big. I use it because “S” thought Big Mike was a safe and comfortable person to be around. I want to be like Jesus and sometimes my size scares people. Some people think I am huge so I can do extraordinary feats of strength. Some think I am unapproachable. Some people think I am mean…yes, I have heard that said.

As I attempt to live like Christ, one thing I want is for people to be able to come to me with their problems and have an ear that will listen and empathize. I want to be that strong shelter in the storm like “S” thought I was for him. One thing the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth was,

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 11:1

I want people to follow me as I follow Christ. Not to worship me, but to see Jesus and therefore worship Jesus. As Jesus himself said in John 13,

“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

I want to wash others’ feet and serve as Christ served. I am not the Savior. I cannot be him. But I want to be a godly example of who Jesus is. I like being called Big Mike because it reminds me of that little guy “S”. I often wonder what ever happened to him. He would be an adult now I think. My prayers are with him and his brother and I pray that they would remember me and the family at Northside and seek Christ in their lives. Maybe remember that there are other Big Mike’s out there that can help them grow and walk with Christ.

May we all be that strong shelter for others.

Grace and Peace.