Many people don’t know that I have a brother. Living out in California, I am a long way from Colorado where I grew up and I am not surrounded with family. I feel that Julie and I live on our own little island at times full of palm trees, sand and surf. Our semi-annual trips back to the homeland are our only chances to interact in person with some of the people we love the most. The rest of the time, we send an occasional e-mail, talk on the phone, or use social media as our platform for feeling more connected to each other.
My brother falls in the category of immediate but distant family. He is younger than I am and lives back in Colorado where we grew up. We typically got along as children although we were very different as people. Our interests outside of watching the Star Wars Trilogy over and over again were almost never the same. Although we never really connected on the same level, I rarely remember fighting as children. I think in some ways, we distanced ourselves in an effort to define our own unique identities as brothers often do.
Time has passed and now that we have grown older, I feel a deep regret for not strengthening that relationship with by brother. We had a disagreement over e-mail recently that made me realize that the divide was much bigger than I ever knew. I realized for the first time that he did not respect me as an older brother. He had been hurt by things I had said in the past that I had long forgotten. He was bitter for a number of justified reasons and none of them were reasons I could reconcile. Here I was upset at a current situation, and I was in no position to give advice no matter how valid the concern.
Could I be so surprised? In 32 years of his life, I had not invested the time that it takes to build a true relationship. I had been a pacifist in both friendship and in accountability.
How many times to we do the same thing in our spiritual lives? We go through the motions but never really connect. We go to church on Sunday, and then expect God to be our best friend when we get in some sort of situation. We never really took the time to build the relationship, but we assumed that we were still pals with God.
I’ve been thinking this past week about my host of regret. What I should and should not have done growing up. I realize that every seed we plant in life eventually grows into something. Even sometimes the lack of seeds we plant. Words of encouragement grow into strength, while neglect and insult lead to death. This applies to every relationship on Earth as well as heaven.
While I can’t go back and change the past, I can look towards the future with this perspective. While I know I’m not going to get along with everyone, I do know that I can offer a word of encouragement to each person I come in contact with. It doesn’t always just ‘start’ with the little things, sometimes it ‘is’ the little things.
As I continue to grow older, my family and friends are all I have, and I need to make sure the people around me know this is what I value the most. I hope that someday, I will earn the respect of my brother, but for now I will settle knowing that I have learned a valuable lesson in life about planting the right seeds. Planting those seeds takes effort.
1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.