I am the oldest of three boys in my nuclear family. Doug is 21 months younger than I am and Ken is a little more than 7 years younger than I am. When Doug and I grew up together, there was quite a bit of competition between us – or at least it seemed that way back then. I was the oldest and so I had the advantage of staying up a little later and getting extended curfews in our elementary and high school years. I think I was a little jealous of Doug because he always wanted to play with my friends and when we were short a person for some game we wanted to play, using Doug was convenient.
That didn’t always sit well with me because, as I said earlier, I was a little jealous. I think both of us would attest to the fact that I was Dad’s favorite – but there’s no denying that Doug was Mom’s favorite child. I know that it sounds bad to say stuff like this, but with all my heart, I believe it to be true. And make no mistake, that’s tough for a son to admit.
Mom used to say that Doug reminded her of her own father, and so Doug got privileges that I never received. He was generally more popular than I was and had quite a number of friends. Ken was enough younger that he didn’t really remember all this stuff from the early years. And Dad was diagnosed with cancer when Ken was 14, a tough age, so he really grew up under a different set of circumstances than Doug and I did.
It’s probably not tough to see that there was a relational storm brewing between Doug and me; and in fact, there was a period of time, almost 10 years, that we didn’t communicate – in fact, I don’t remember if we even spoke, let alone spent time together during that decade. That started to weigh on me – after all, I am the oldest son and growing up, I was inculcated with the idea that it was my responsibility to make sure that the family remained intact.
So I began the long arduous struggle of bringing the three brothers back together as part of the same nuclear family. Both our parents are gone now and Ken struggles with health and other issues that make it difficult to communicate with him on an adult level. Doug, on the other hand, has become a rather well known surgeon and has a specialized practice southwest of Chicago. Between the two of us, we watch over Ken as much as we can and try to stay in touch with one another as often as is reasonably possible given both of our hectic schedules.
This week-end, by chance, I spoke to both my brothers. That is rather rare. Ken called me yesterday to discuss some issues that were on his mind – and today is Doug’s birthday so I gave him a call. We spoke briefly, but what stood out to me was the fact that for all intents and purposes, I am the only family member left to call Doug. Ken generally doesn’t remember this kind of thing and since Mom and Dad are both gone, I am kind of the keeper of the flame, if you know what I mean…
And every so often, it is good to remember the commitment to family. Now I want you to know that it hasn’t always been easy to love Doug, or Ken, or I am sure, me… We all have our idiosyncrasies but God doesn’t really care about that. We are commanded to love our brothers in the very real sense of the word. While that may have been difficult for me to do years ago, I really enjoy having brothers. Oh, they still give me fits from time to time, but that’s all in the family…
The Bible has quite a bit to say on the subject. The Gospel writer John makes it quite clear what we are supposed to do. He tells us, in 1 John 4:20-21, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God expects us to love our bothers and sisters, even when they may be difficult to love. My prayer is that God may touch you in some way so that you realize what a blessing it is to have brothers and sisters. In fact, it is a constant prayer request of Janet’s and mine that our own three children will learn the tough lesson that I had to learn. So Doug, and Ken, I love you guys and am glad that you are my brothers. And by the way, have a great birthday, Doug! I hope to see you soon… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…