Wednesday, April 30, 2008
All we like sheep...
My brother and I took part in a children's musical at our church not long after our parents moved us from Louisiana to Texas. "We Like Sheep" was a somewhat comical musical based on the passage in Scripture: "If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray" (Matt. 18:12-13). There are very few details I remember, due to my rather young age of five at the time, but there are key aspects of the musical that I will never forget. For one, I tend to remember what I wore to all the countless musicals and skits I have been involved with over the years, and this one was no different. We all wore white sweats and white socks; the girls had "ewe" painted on our sweatshirts and the boys had "ram" (in case anyone questioned who the boys and girls were I guess?). And who can forget pigtails?? I loved it when my mom put me in pigtails, and mine for this production even had cute little sheep ears attached with pink bows! Yes, I was a vain little girl which is why I remember such meaningless details so vividly.
The other detail that I remember, one much more significant than curly ponytails, was my big brother's role in the musical. The featured character was a little toot of a sheep named "Grimey." He always wanted to do things his way, and longed for adventure away from the rest of the boring sheep. My brother is the one who was cast as "Grimey." Now let it be known that I absolutely adored him growing up. Although he pounded me on numerous occasions, I followed him everywhere. I wanted to be like him, talk like him, joke like him, and what is more cool than having a big brother who will beat up anyone who calls you names?? So I naturally thought it was the most awesomest thing in the world that my big brother got to be the black sheep of the bunch. At some point in the musical "Grimey" finally decides that he's had enough of his dull flock and takes off on his own. The rest of the sheep wondered what would come of him: some were concerned and some were rather relieved to finally have him gone. But the shepherd is the one who went in search of his beloved sheep. The story was complete when the shepherd returned to his flock carrying "Grimey" over his back. Not only did he rejoice to have his sheep back with the flock, but "Grimey" was relieved and thankful to finally be home.
I spoke with my brother a couple of weeks ago when he called to wish me a happy birthday. Not only was he sober while we were talking, but he said some things that made me more hopeful than I have been for him in quite some time. Although I have learned to not raise my hopes too high, this conversation was particularly encouraging. My brother has been in Hawaii for almost a year now, working at a posh restaurant and basking in the beauty that is the mild climate and breathtaking oceanview. Because he was coherent when we talked, he was extremely clear and made some very honest comments. He admitted that living in Hawaii has been a wonderful experience, but that it has been just that: an experience. He acknowledged that he cannot make a life for himself down there, and that he has much more important things to take care of here (his daughter in particular). Rarely does he let his guard down to weakness, but during this conversation he basically let me know that he is lonely down there. He has to fork over a ton of money to see loved ones, whereas we are all a drive away from one another if the need or desire arises. He informed me before we hung up that he is planning on moving back home in September. I could not fully express how much of a relief it was to hear him say that, and I made it a point to emphasize to him how happily this news would be received by the family.
I have no idea where my brother truly stands with the Lord. I do know what the fruit of his life communicates, as well as the amount of times Romans 1 has come to mind when thinking about him. There were many years in high school and college spent burdening myself over him in a way that was ungodly. Some may see the prayers and pain I experienced as something admirable, but in all honesty, he was too great of a burden. It was not until I moved to Louisville that I had to vocally and internally acknowledge that nothing I do will be what saves him. We can pray, oh how we can pray! But nothing I do or that my dad says or that my mom does not do will be what draws him to the Lord. The Lord goes after His own, and we are told in John that there are sheep not yet of the fold who will certainly listen when He calls (John 10:16). Not only does this proclaim the truth that the Lord knows those whom He has called, but it moves us to prayer and reliance on the Lord's sovereignty. He alone is mighty to save. My brother is still that sheep, running from the Shepherd. But should the Lord run after him, calling and cleansing him by the blood of the Savior, such will be a day of great rejoicing.