As most of you know, I am the oldest of three brothers. Doug was born 21 months after I was and Ken came more than 5 years 9 months after that. I was always raised to take care of my younger brothers and that education is something that I have never forgotten.
Grandpa taught us to stick up for one another and to always make sure that we defended one another against all odds. Mom and Dad also preached the same message but for some reason it held more weight when Grandpa said it. I think that is because he had a brother who was separated from the family at a young age after the death of their mother and Grandpa lost track of him. My great grandfather eventually remarried and the blended family had so many children that my grandfather struck out on his own at the tender age of 13. While he reconnected with his sister years later, Grandpa always wondered what became of his brother and near the end of his life, I remember Grandpa saying that not pursuing his long lost brother was the biggest regret of his life. That stuck with me.
That’s not to say that the three of us boys never had our differences – we did, as most families can attest to. But when the chips were down, Doug, Ken and I banded together against all comers. Doug and I have grown much closer over the years. In fact, for the first time since we were in our twenties, we are working on a project together. It has been wonderful to see Doug in his environment as a doctor, providing healthcare and healing to women and families. I, on the other hand, work with his team of staff members to promote team unity and healthy team dynamics. There isn’t any competition between us and each of us recognizes the other as an expert in their particular field of study.
And even though I stay with Doug and his family when I travel to the Chicago area to work with his team, we fall into our roles of oldest bother and younger sibling. To outsiders it may not be visible, but it sure is to me. I like to make sure that he is okay and in some odd sort of way, I think he knows that that. We don’t talk of it often and we are both in our sixties with our own families so I know that he doesn’t NEED my help – but old habits die hard and I still recall the training from my youth.
As long as we are both alive, I will be the oldest brother, responsible for making sure that everything is good with the nuclear family. I also tend to be the more serious of the two of us, but with Doug, I often fall into the role of jokester. I kind of get a kick out of it when he laughs at some of the things I do – usually surprising him in the process.
Several days ago, Doug and his wife, Jill, headed out to Vietnam, Thailand and Miramar for a long awaited vacation. He asked if I would like that sort of trip and I reminded him that I had spent years trying to stay out of Vietnam during the war in the late 1960’s. I was in the draft lottery and my birth date was drawn as #50. The first numbers were called but I was spared, and, thankfully, Doug never had to face the prospect of going to war, either.
So, imagine my surprise when I was awakened out of a sound sleep at 2:30 a.m. when the phone rang and it was Doug calling from Vietnam. In the moment, my mind flew back to my youth and I was consumed with being worried about him. It turns out that he was in the process of going through security at an airport and the agent mistakenly dialed my number. Doug didn’t think much of it, but I couldn’t go back to sleep – another example of “oldest brother syndrome” – worrying about your younger siblings. And the Vietnam connection just added another layer of fear in my groggy state.
The last several days I have thought about that call – the one with no voice on the other end – wondering in the moment if Doug had been kidnapped and I was getting a ransom call from his captors. It is amazing where the human mind goes during the instant that you think somebody could be in trouble. Couple that with the fact that Mom always said that no good news ever comes during a call in the middle of the night. See how I remember the things of my youth?
Our verse for this evening has to do with brotherly love. Although there are many examples of siblings not getting along, I would rather focus on the positive side. David, the author of Psalm 133 tells us, in Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” My encouragement this evening is that God expects us to take care of our siblings. My prayer is that you realize that siblings are a gift from God, even if you fought like cats and dogs during your childhood. And while there are plenty of people who are estranged from their family members, that is not what God desires for us… He wants us to love one another well. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…