Monday, April 09, 2007

My brother and many others like him...

I wrote this a few years ago and I am FINALLY putting it out there for others to read. I am kind of nervous about that but oh well. I know I was born to write at some point so why not start now letting others read what I mater how personal it is.

Growing up in a family like mine there were many challenges. But those challenges were met and most were overcome. I am the middle child and I have an older brother whom I love dearly. But, sometimes it's not that easy to love him. You see he was born with a handicap. He has a mild case of Cerebral Palsy and it has affected more than one area of his life.
Growing up I felt that I had to be the protector and shield him from the hurtful things people said and did to him. I was a "second mom" so to speak.
I grew up really fast. My mom has told me numerous times that when we were very little that I had started walking and talking before him. Matthew is only 15 ½ months older than I am. I would interpret what he had to say to my parents like it was natural for me to understand him. That's pretty much true, it has been natural for me to understand him when others haven't. God gave me a unique ability to love my brother when it seemed the world didn't want to love him or had given up on him. I was also presented with another unique challenge of learning sign language at the age of four so that a deaf girl my age had a friend. It's so natural for me to sign, that even when I am in a group of hearing people I will start to sign while I am talking.
I give you that back ground so that you will understand what I want to convey about my brother and so many other people that live with handicaps. My brother has been given a gift. Not many people would see it as a gift but I do. His gift, is that he has an amazing ability to love and care deeply for others around him. He is kind hearted and gentle. He sees things that others would not even think to look at. He loves people. His gentle spirit has been a great way for him to make friends and be as friendly as possible to others he meets. He works at a grocery store here in town and everyone that I talk to that has met him says he is the most polite and nicest guy they have ever met. I believe them when they say it, because it's true. As my brother grew up he had a lot of struggles with fitting in. Trying to understand why you aren't "fitting in" at a very young
age is hard to do. I didn't understand it so how was my brother supposed to understand that people didn't necessarily want to be around him because he was different. I learned at a very early age that if you were different you would be picked on no matter what and that you had to just deal with it or let it get to you. Growing up with a handicap is not easy for the person or the family of that person but you learn to deal with each day as it comes and you see the good that can come out of it. There are times when I look at young kids who have disabilities and I look past that to see who they really are and how much they want to love and be loved just like the rest of us. I know that is true with my brother. God has placed a capacity bigger than I could ever fathom for loving unconditionally within some one who is handicap. People who have a handicap understand the need to be dependent on someone or something. They trust so much more easily than I ever could and they love you no matter what you look like or act like.
A few years ago I started seeing my brother through "new eyes" so to speak. I guess the Lord was putting a fresh burden on my heart for my brother and it's been my prayer for a long time that he would surrender his whole heart to the Lord and be the man God has created him to be. I get to hang out with my brother a lot more lately and it has changed our relationship.
He sees that I want to hang out with him and I want to do stuff with him even if it means putting my own desires aside. We both have very different taste in things and what I consider to be normal he considers to be weird. So, I have learned to compromise a lot. I am learning to love my brother where he is at and not the brother I think he should be. It's a daily
struggle because I want him to be normal and he never will be. I sometimes view this as loving what seems to be the unlovable or the difficult one to love. I was reading in Luke 5 this morning about Jesus calling Matthew the Tax collector and how the Pharisees didn't take to well to the idea that Jesus was associating with some one who was deemed unlovable. I see that in my own life about loving people who seem to be some one you would not want to love. It kind of reminds me about my brother and what he has had to deal with. Some people couldn't understand his disability so it was easier to just not deal with him rather than love him for who he was. This is where my perspective started to change.I see things much differently and I believe that is only by the grace of God. I don't say that lightly either. I think at times our perspective on life can be skewed by the situations we are going through. I know mine is skewed. When I am going through something I tend to look at myself and ask "why" rather than look out and see what God is doing in the situation. One situation that my perspective has changed is with my brother. I have been praying for years that God would change him and God would move but
what I didn't expect is that God would be changing me too. That He was changing my heart towards my brother and all the things he goes through. Until recently I used to question what in the world the Lord was doing with my brother. It seemed that every time I talked to him it was like talking to a brick wall. Then one Sunday during breakfast my brother announced some changes in his life. Nothing drastic but some minor changes that I had talked to him about a lot in the past couple of years and he is now doing them! I was kind of mad because I wasn't able to convince him that the changes would be
good but because he started reading a book that told him he could change he decided he wanted to! But then just as it always happens I had some prayer time and the Lord showed me that this time wasn't just about my brother changing but about me changing. I love my brother but God wanted to change my heart and show me how to love my brother where he is at right now in his life. A few years ago that would have been very difficult for me to do. So, I see how God can change me and my perspective when I didn't think anything was going on.