Saturday, December 10, 2011

my brother's keeper

It's strange, but thinking about my brother helps me to trust God more.

I haven't written about him in a while but thanks to Skype, we've been talking a couple times a week. In all the times I've written about him on here I've called him a boy. And he isn't any longer. He hasn't been, but we were fifteen and eleven the last time we lived together, we hardly knew each other, and the image stuck. The boy with skinny legs, bent slightly, standing on a mattress with his hand reaching out. It's the image that came back some three years later when God changed me in regard to my brother through the most unlikely of people.

But things are different now. What I mean is that it's easier, in a way, to write about him as looking back on that boy, to call him a boy, because somehow it made a more poignant description. But it's less true now. I don't just mean that he's older. He is, of course--5'10 and looking thoroughly man-like while still holding on to the few boyish features you see in a nineteen-year-old. Our mom sent me some Christmas pictures about a month ago and in one of them, he looks like he could be thirty with a wife, a job to go to, bank accounts. Someone whose life would grow toward children and having to cut the grass. And I wonder. But don't misunderstand me: these things could be wonderful for him, but there are other good things too, different things.

So now we talk on Skype. Sometimes it's serious but more often we're just talking. In a way we're getting to know each other, sharing pieces of life that are mundane. Just talking. Breathing. It all revolved around such dramatic things for so long, and that's still there at the root of all of it, the main thread, but things are starting to branch out now, being allowed to grow. There are new shoots, little bursts of green, of hope. When he got out of jail, he told me how, after an entire year without seeing sunlight, the sun gave him headaches. And I thank my God for sunlight for my brother. You see? The headaches meant the beginning of some good thing.

And yet there's still so much that could go wrong, that still is so messed up. It hasn't been made right and I don't know if it will. Some days all I want to do is go back there and do what, I have no idea. But be there with him. Pray beside him and with him instead of seven timezones away. Fix things. But I'm convinced God wants me here instead of there, and even though it doesn't make any sense sometimes, there's no way of denying it. It's clear, and it's over and over again. I put my hands up and say, okay God, I don't understand this, but if you say so.

Now I look at my brother and he's so complex. He's not 'a boy who...' and he's not a symbol, a vehicle through whom I can show that there are a hundred unanswered questions or hope for what could be, what God can do. He's not anything I can put in a sentence. I will say that if I ever write a book, and I really hope I will, I'd want it to be about him somehow.

The truth is that, thinking about him, even though there are no answers and there is no sure promise regarding my brother, it is abundantly clear God is at work in his life. And there have been sure answers to prayers. But while I am certain of what God can do, I don't know what will happen. Maybe that sounds like doubt. The funny thing is that while there are a hundred other places where it is difficult not to doubt some or to live in ways that reflect that faith, in this God has made me sure of himself.

I've said already: it is fraught with questions and no certain ending. Another funny thing is that Great is Thy Faithfulness is playing right now. And I'll tell you what. It is good to be getting to know him, to laugh with him. There are lots of big and heavy things, and while I'll pray for him as long as I'm alive, I wonder if I'm not meant to just delight in the fact that I have a little brother who is awesome and gross and a completely typical boy. To be there in the ways God gives me, yes, but otherwise trust those big things with him. My God is my brother's keeper--right?

Anyway, he's a pretty cool guy. Glad I'm getting to find that out.


  1. So glad for you that you guys are building your relationship. It can be strange when someone goes from symbol/image/word to person--or, at least it has been strange in my experience. Hoping for all the best for both of you!