It had been months since I'd spoken to my younger brother, Eric. It wasn't out of the ordinary... we barely ever spoke to each other anymore. It seemed like we were worlds apart now, but the distance felt different this time.
Back when I was four and five years old, I would beg my mother "please, please, please Mom... please can I have a little brother?" My poor mother would be hounded by her fifth child who was actually willing to share the "glory" of being the baby of the family! A sad smile would cross her face as she explained that another baby was not in the picture at this time... but my heart told me otherwise! Little did I know that my parents were struggling with their marriage and it would be a couple of years later that my siblings and I would be sitting in the living room when I would learn what "divorce" means. At seven years of age, I learned that hope can disappear before your eyes like a mirage. Everything changed as did any dreams of being a big sister.
Or was it?
To my surprise, after the big move from the farm to the city, my Mom shared the news that she was pregnant. I would be eight years old when my long-awaited little brother was to arrive... I was convinced it was a boy from the get-go and I pleaded with my mother that his name would be Andre. For several months of the pregnancy, I asked to live with my Mom and I loved praying for the baby and talking to the baby... at seven years old, I was quite convinced this baby was being born just for me! LOL!!
I was too young to understand the significance at the time, but when my mother was five months pregnant, she pulled over on the side of the road to help my older brother with a car issue. A woman driver struck my mother who went flying fifteen feet through the air and landed on her pregnant belly. She lay there not knowing if she was about to get driven over... As a little girl, all I knew was that Mom had been in an accident. Having borne six children of my own and knowing intimately the tenderness of a five month pregnant belly, I cannot describe the feeling that chokes me when I think of this event.
In the hospital, Mom was spitting out teeth and they warned her that they could not locate the baby's heartbeat. She asked to be left alone with her unborn child for just a few moments...
When Mom tells me this story, her eyes are sombre as she recalls reaching deep within herself prayerfully to stir the life in her womb through Christ Jesus. Finally, like answered prayer, she felt a little kick. He was alive! He was delivered from the threat of death! And her soul was affirmed in knowing that this little life was precious and meant to be! But the rest of her pregnancy would be delicate with random bouts of bleeding. Doctors made it clear that this would be a fragile time and not without continued risk.
When the time came for my brother to be born, I could hardly wait! Finally, I got the news that he was born and off we went to the hospital to meet my long-awaited brother. I fell instantly in love and we all passed him around. My eldest sister got this look in her eyes as she gazed at him and said "He just doesn't look like an Andre." My face dropped... no, no, no... this was Andre! "He looks more like an Eric." I zipped my face to look at Mom who seemed to be considering this!! I was anything but gracious in my response... downright having a crying fit. My mother consoled me by saying "when the time comes for him to be baptized, you can be his Godmother."
Only problem is that by the time Eric turned six, seven and eight, we couldn't stand each other! And when did Mom decide to baptize him? Yep, right around this time. Oy! When she asked if I wanted to step up to plate as Godmother, I replied "No way!" There was nothing godly about my heart towards him at that time.
Teenage years hit and Eric became gangster style, skipping school, tattoos, and partying with friends. He'd swagger around demanding respect but not willing to show respect to anyone nor behave respectfully. We really started drifting a part... and yet there always seemed to be moments of reconnection. Perhaps that whole "blood is thicker than water" bears more significance than we realize.
Young adulthood and Eric was hardly seen. He barely came to family gatherings anymore and he was now into drugs. Even though he is our "half-brother," he has always been my "full brother." But perhaps gatherings were becoming stranger as these often happened at my father's home who, despite not being his father, always welcomed Eric among his children. What was this growing chasm and could anything ever close it in again? The brother I'd always prayed for was truly now being prayed for... but it felt as though my prayers were falling on deaf ears. And then the news...
"Eric is eloping."
"WHAT??? Married?? To whom? Mom, have you met her? Has anyone met her?"
"Only a couple of times but she sure doesn't like me."
"Oh Mom, I'm so sorry. Surely that mustn't sit well with Eric."
That August, Eric eloped and married a woman ten years his senior whose reputation and current behaviour left us hoping and praying for a miracle... after all, anyone can become a new creation when they find Yeshua, right? There's always hope, right? After all, some of the strongest testimonies of faith I've ever heard came from people who'd had very brutal pasts!
Alas, now I bring you back to the distance that was beginning to feel different...
It was now two months into his marriage, I decided to take a chance and reach out to him via text. I couldn't remember the last time I had texted him and for whatever reason, he was on my mind something fierce. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, I needed him to know he was loved and prayed for (in every sense of the word). It was an autumn evening. I remember because the feel of impending winter-death was in the air.
"Hey Bud... wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I love you and I'm praying for you."
To my surprise, the phone began to ring. It was Eric!
"Rita, did you talk to Mom?"
"Hello to you, too! What do you mean 'did I talk to Mom.'?"
"Did you talk to Mom? Did she say something?" His voice was shaken up and upset.
"Eric, what's going on? Are you ok?"
There was silence on the other end then suddenly, my little brother broke down and I asked him "please come over right now."
Within thirty minutes, I sat across from my kitchen table looking into my brother's brokenness as he shared such horrible things he was being subjected to in his marriage, things I didn't know could be said or done. I cried, too. And then he confessed:
"Rita... when you texted me, I had tried to take my life and had failed."
My baby brother. The one I had begged God for... whose life was so wanted... whose life was spared in the womb... whose life just now was narrowly snuffed out...
Something had to be done. And something deep in my spirit knew it.
"Eric, I don't have anything of this world to give to you. But I do have something out of this world that will equip you and armour you to face what you are facing. Will you allow me to text you bible verses as the LORD reveals them to me? The more you know His word, the more it will protect you like a shield. It's His promise, Eric. And God keeps His promises."
Normally I would hesitate about offering someone the Hope of faith in Yeshua so boldly, but my brother's life was at stake and all I could do was turn to the Author of Life, the giver of life and introduce my brother to Him.
"Sh*t, Rita.... why not? What the he** have I got to lose?"
Duane and I laid our hands on my little brother and prayed over him. My brother left that night and the prayer stirring from deep within continued to pour forth from my heart that night. "Yahweh, you alone open eyes and ears and hearts to see and hear and receive you. Please, Father, let this be your timing to reveal yourself to my brother. Please, give him life, true life, in you. Be his helmet of salvation, his breastplate of righteousness, his belt of truth and shoes of peace, his shield of faith and his sword of the spirit, which is your word. I ask this in your son Yeshua's holy name... amen."
The verses the LORD revealed to me throughout the following weeks were amazing! He knew exactly what Eric needed to hear and made sure I just so happened to "stumble" upon them. Within weeks, my brother was phoning me regularly proclaiming the miracle of the protection he was experiencing!
"Rita! Even when she's yelling horrible things at me, all I feel is peace! I feel protected, like in a safe place and instead of being angry and yelling back, I just feel sadness for her brokenness... I love her so much."
Every ounce of my being wanted to tell my brother "Run away! Get out of there! Come live here if you need to!" but something told me it was important to be quiet and keep these feelings to myself. I tamed my tongue (not an easy task for this gal!) and said:
"Eric, what do you feel the LORD is telling you to do?"
"I know it doesn't make sense, but I feel like He's telling me to stay. I can't leave her. It's like He's telling me to love her just as she is the way He loves me just as I am."
Gulp! I feared for his life. I wanted to talk him out of what he was feeling called to do, but it is when we trust our own will instead of submitting to the mystery of His that bad things happen in the first place! When we elevate our human logic above His authority over the realm of impossibility, we fail to see His fingerprint, His mighty works. Did I want Eric to trust in my logical counsel to flee or was I ready to trust God's fingerprint? Did I trust His promise to be a shield?
"Ok, Eric. If that's what He's telling you to do, then it's very important that you obey."
I meant those words... and somehow, realizing I believed them brought a surprised sense of reassurance. If my brother was being called to love when it is hardest to love, doesn't that have God's name written all over it?
Deep breath... trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. If God is truly with my brother, what can mere mortals do?
By Spring, Eric said "Rita, you remember that bible you bought me a few years back? Well, I feel like a jerk but I lost it. But if you buy me another one, I promise I'll read it cover to cover and not lose it again."
I gave him his bible at the end of June. By mid-July, he was the one sending me bible verses!! LOL!! It was wonderful!! But his wife would try to rip the bible out of his hands so he would have to read it locked in a room while she'd yell at him "Pick! It's either me or God!" To which Eric would reply "Don't you understand that if I love God first, He will equip me to love you more than I ever could if I put you before Him? I want to love you by God's power, not by mortal efforts!"
He pulled out his bible at work during lunch and coffee breaks. The LORD stirred his heart into a treasure hunt through His Word. By September, Eric was convinced it was essential to keep the 7th day Sabbath as made holy by God and to uphold His everlasting covenant... His Torah (instructions) including His holy feast days. His wife was livid. There was an incident that required 9-1-1 intervention and my brother came to stay at our home until things settled. The family rallied together to support Eric in many various ways and it was a great reminder that no matter what, we as siblings are there for each other.
But Eric's wife decided to leave my brother for good and made arrangements to move out East in another province. This was happening during the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall and Eric notified me on a day I just happened to come across this verse:
"To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her... the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband... But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister [in Christ] is not enslaved. God has called you to peace." (1 Corinthians 7:12-15)My brother had accurately understood God's nudging to stay and now He was granting him peace by having her choose to leave him! I genuinely believe that it is my brother's faith that finally opened that woman's womb that three months after she moved away, she became pregnant... the very reason she claimed to be so angry with God in the first place, was lifted. I watched my brother pour forth powerful prayers for her despite the sufferings he endured. I understand why Love covers a multitude of sin!
Today, Eric is passionate about the Word of God, studying the Torah diligently and seeing how powerfully it is upheld in the New Testament and by Yeshua's words in red.
If you believed Moses, then you would believe me for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings [the Torah of God], how will you believe my words? (John 5:46)With growing confidence, my brother believes the words in red because they testify to the truth of God's everlasting covenant, His Torah, His righteous law with which He governs us, through which He executes His justice and through which He shows us great mercy! Today, he shares his story boldly and testifying to the power of God's Word. His coworkers draw near and ask questions which Eric answers with the caveat "but read His word and put my words to the test against it. If He can teach me, He can teach anyone!" My brother is a walking testimony to the New Creation promised by faith in Yeshua!
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)All of this to say that my little brother, whom I have loved since before he was ever formed in the womb, has also been loved by the Father long before his soul was knitted to bone in the womb!
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)If our Potter could give this little 'ol pot the means to understand love before physical creation, then just imagine the power of the love of our Potter before He forms us physically! Our name is known, we are called forth, we are all knit from a place of "knowing."
May you never doubt that you are loved and wanted. May you never believe the lie that you cannot be loved or forgiven because of the things you've done or seen or thought. It is a lie! Every moment you seek Him through His Word, this very Word will wash away your sins with your tears of remorse... you will watch your filthy garments be exchanged for linens white as snow! And you will look upon the shining face of the Word made flesh, Yeshua, and know that He has the authority to give you these white linens because of His atoning work of shedding His blood unto death on the cross. He has conquered death that He might deliver you from death... even from the womb!
So my beloved brethren out there, accept this love and let it humble you.... do not fear the pain of being refined for He is treating you as children whom He loves. In your current sufferings, remember who is calling you and rejoice. God bless you all out there!
|Here is picture of my brother I took after seeing two planes leave cloud dust in the shape of the cross in the sky.|