For those of you with the Shrek song running through your heads, I’ll give you a few moments. La, la, la…… (If you want to sing along with the original songwriter Leonard Cohen, click here.) Okay, done? How about now?
I have a little brother–I am the oldest of five children–who actually is not ‘little’ anymore. In fact, he’s 6 foot 4 inches. I will call him my youngest brother.
When my mother was just separated from her third husband, my brother D. was in a serious motorcycle accident; he was 19 at the time. Let’s just say he was not okay with my mother’s choice for a mate so he didn’t relish the idea of living at home. Estranged from the rest of us, he’d become a nomad, crashing on various Southern California couches after he decided to leave home and high school, as I recall, in that order.
But this accident brought him home.
Actually, “home” had to go to him. When my mother received the call from the police about D’s accident, she got herself to the hospital, re-entering his life under less-than-ideal circumstances. My brother was hospitalized for three 1/2 months, nearly lost his leg to an amputation and ended up becoming a guinea pig for the first ever (it was the ’80’s) nuts and bolts leg rebuilding done ever done for an injury of his kind.
D. wore a leg apparatus that looked like he’d been put together with an metal Tinker Toy set. The bolts were adjusted and tightened regularly, encouraging bone growth and repair. Recuperation was excruciating and slow, but he finally recovered.
Once he was mobile, D. vanished again, floating in and out of our lives for the next decade. Drug and alcohol addiction dogged him and he came near death again more than once. We’d hear of his whereabouts from time to time but he was often missed at family gatherings. It was hard on my mom; it was hard on ALL of us.
I will not tell his salvation story any more than that, other than to say God got a hold of him in 1999, rescued him, redeemed him and relieved him of his death wish and defiant ways.
It was a mighty deliverance.
But relationship re-entry was difficult for the two of us in particular (at least the way I saw it.)
When you spend your lifetime the oldest of five children in a family with an absent father and a harried mom–such as I did–you usually take charge of things, or responsibilities are handed to you. I was left with the burden of caring for my brothers and sisters while my mom worked; D. as the youngest resisted it the most.
I was the bossy big sister for most of his life and now our adult interactions were strained. I had found Jesus at 19 during the time he was out of our lives and I was a little (well, a LOT) over-zealous. My fanaticism didn’t help my relationships in my family–I was referred to as “the religious one” which only made things worse.
Although D and I now shared a saving faith in Jesus, our relationship as adults was going to need some work.
Soul injuries can take a lifetime to heal but I can testify
to God’s faithfulness and the power of that process.
Here we stand, 15 years since D.’s first “house arrest” by Jesus, and stand he does–not just physically, but soul-whole as well. Our relationship is repaired and we are continuing to grow in love and grace with each other.
All of those miracles crossed my mind, bubbling to the surface in tears as I stood in worship a few Sunday mornings ago. There was a moment during an outpouring of spontaneous prayer when I heard these words,
“There are only two conditions of the heart.
A closed heart is a hard heart.
An open heart is a soft heart.
There are two conditions of a soft heart.
One that is open to receive the love of Jesus Christ or open to give that love away.”
The words touched me deeply. “Wow,” I thought, “who is that praying?”
The prayer continued, “Jesus, give us your grace to live our lives with open hands.”
I began to weep, tears brimming not so much at the content of the words but the condition of the speaker.
It was my little brother.
The brother who should be dead, who’s come back to life and knows better than I ever will what it means to sing and pray a broken hallelujah.
He was badly broken and by God’s grace he’s being made whole. (And aren’t we all?)