Brothers in Christ – An Unknown Relationship to Me
There are many definitions of a brother found in the dictionary. It can mean a male of the same parentage. It can also be someone who is related by common interests or a close male friend or comrade. We have all had them in one way or another. The one definition that Webster left out was that of a true brother in Christ. He is someone who you trust and feel safe with -- someone who you are accountable to because there is respect, integrity, and honesty. A true brother will always have faults and struggles, but he comes along beside us and help us to strive, reach, and attain higher ground especially when we are struggling. I have had men who fit each of these definitions and they all have had an impact during my walk through life -- each critical in its own way.
Fathers also have a tremendous impact on us, whether positive or not. We learn many things, including problem solving, conflict resolution, and accountability. I didn’t get this opportunity with my father because tragedy struck early in my life. When I was 1 1/2 years old, my father was killed in a work accident. A 116 ton-reinforced concrete door fell on him while he was working on a Titan 1 missile silo. Although I was too young to understand the event, the absence of my father left a gaping hole in my heart that I felt for years. I would not come to terms with his death for the next 40 years. I didn’t understand how to grieve for a man that I never knew.
Brothers in Christ – The Impact of my Biological Brothers
In my family, I had two older brothers. My oldest brother James quickly stepped in to fill the vacuum my father had left -- even though he was just a boy himself. James looked out for the well being and safety of us younger siblings. He was five years older and I became his shadow. He instilled in me many character traits I have carried through life. My brother was my hero and I looked to him as my compass in life. He was a natural leader, and I always wanted to be just like him.
My mother remarried when I was 4 1/2 years old. My step-father had three daughters from a previous marriage so we became known as "The Brady Bunch." I never connected with my step father. He did not want to fill the fatherly role because my brother was doing just fine. He unknowingly gave away his authority. He always made sure that his needs were met before anyone else’s. My mother’s side of the family rejected him because he had little integrity or ambition and did not care for us. There was a tremendous amount of unspoken hostility in the family.
When I was twelve years old, I went to a church camp where I accepted Christ as my Savior. There were no flashes or chills, just a deep-seated understanding that I was now God’s child. That deep-rooted knowledge of God’s grace would sustain me through many trials. Although I knew God loved me, I had no one who came beside me as a friend, mentor, or a brother in Christ to teach and prepare me in the ways of the Lord, so I easily fell prey to the offerings of the world.
My older brother was was five years my elder, and he graduated from high school when I was at the vulnerable age of 13. He left home to attend college and the morning he left was a crushing blow to me. Not only my brother, but my role model was leaving me. It was like my father had died again, only this time he was also my best friend. As he drove down the lane that morning, I felt my world come to an end as a boy. Our relationship would never be the same. Although he had to start his own life, I felt alone and abandoned heading into the turmoil of my teen years. It was a critical time in my life. I went off the deep end because no one was there to show me how to become a man. I became accountable to no one and struggled to find my identity. Because of the pain of losing my father and now my brother, I quickly learned to protect myself by being alone and building walls.
In the coming years, I would never let anyone close to me because of the loss of these important people. I had no friends who I could call a brother. I struggled with my idea of who God is and had a hard time trusting in Him. Was it really true what God said in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”? The two most important men had left me.Would God leave me too?
Brothers in Christ – A Brother’s Negative Influence
At the age of 14, I was introduced to pot for the first time by my rebellious brother, Jake. After having a huge argument with our parents, he wanted to get back at them. I was the target. My innocence left me. I didn’t smoke it very often because I set some limits. Even though it seemed like I was out of control, there were lines that I would not cross because I knew they would be destructive and when crossed, I would go too far. I saw my brothers “friends” destroying their lives with hard drugs and it scared me away from that scene.
I soon learned to enjoy the taste of my brother’s home-brewed hooch, so alcohol quickly became my sedative of choice. By the time I hit the high school scene, I was ready for action, especially when I got wheels. To cover the pain, I became the life of the party, but I was still alone and the walls that I had built were getting higher. All of the teachers wondered what had happened to me and why I wasn’t like my brother James. I wasn’t his shadow anymore. I was on my own.
I remember crying out in my soul for my parents, or anyone, to show that they cared. It didn’t work. With the exception of my older brother, all of my other brothers and sisters were keeping my parents busy with their bigger problems of life -- a pregnacy, quiting school, running away. My problems seemed minor in contrast. The family was out of control.
I felt rudderless and was ignored during my teenage years. I appeared silent and compliant on the ouside, but I felt a rage on the inside. Occasionally, I would go to church with my aunt and uncle, because I knew I needed to come back to God. But it was a graceless and lifeless form of Churchianity to me. It was law upon law, rule upon rule. Be good, and make God happy -- whatever that meant. I couldn’t live that way. I remember thinking that it would be better to party and live the way that I wanted, than live in that stiff lifeless religion. I wanted life, God’s life, but I didn’t know how to get there. There was a still and silent place in my heart that I knew God had made and He was longing to meet me there. I was crying out for a brother in Christ, someone who I could trust and feel safe with, to come along beside me. I would have given up everything and anything for that. The worldly ways I was following meant nothing to me, they were just salve in my deep wounds.
I have always asked tough questions about life and they were not being answered. The church was afraid of my questions. They kept telling me what to believe and that was enough. I kept asking why I should believe. To me, the answers would lead me to know His personal love in a deeper way.