Today I feel a strong and persistent call to write about my big brother, Joshua. What limited knowledge I have of him comes primarily from early childhood memories, so much of this will be written in the past-tense. My parents tell me he isn’t doing well. He may rally, but he may not. The thought that he might not be long for this world made me surprisingly emotional. I know that sounds… hardened, but it isn’t; perhaps pragmatic. Josh is blind, doesn’t speak, is self-abusive and deeply autistic. It is very difficult to comfort him, to treat his pain. I believe that when he goes home, it will be incredibly joyful for him. But I will mourn his loss. His contribution to my life has been worth more than I can say, but I’ll try anyway.

Josh helped teach me about compassion. It would be easy to pity him. My parents had compassion for him. In my mind there is a vital difference. Pity has no hands or feet. It is counterproductive, even demeaning; not that I’m immune. I pity people sometimes. It is a helpless feeling. Compassion recognizes humanity. It inspires us to show humanity. Of course my folks saw his limitations, but they saw his personality and capacities, too. They loved and included him and taught us to do the same.

More importantly, Joshua taught me about the value of people. Though he could not speak to me, see me, respond in typical ways; though his behaviors were odd and never socially acceptable, I felt his soul. I know that sounds terribly melodramatic, but truly – he had gentleness. I always thought he was special. I love him.

Josh also reminds me that death need not be a fearful thing. He may feel miserable and unhappy here; it’s easy to look at him and feel that something better awaits, but sometimes I forget that I am, more or less, in the same position. We all are. While our lives here can be very precious and beautiful to us, fear, confusion, misery and brokenness are also parts of our realities. I can’t imagine much greater contrast than that between those feelings and pure, uninhibited joy and peace.

And so I thank God for my brother. Thank you for reading about someone who is probably a stranger to you. If you feel so moved, prayers for his peace and comfort would be wonderful.


Eternity and Identity

The fact that I am, that we all are, eternal beings struck me in a new way recently. For some reason it suddenly seemed strange; another one of those taken-for-granted Christian concepts. It seems like a pretty huge thing to take for granted, but I don’t know… you hear John 3:16 rattled off enough times and its electrifying, supernatural promise can get a little bit lost.  I don’t act as though I’ll be alive in some capacity forever. Generally, I think about my life in mortal terms. The decisions I make, while they might impact my post-death experiences, are usually made for my immediate, or at least foreseeable future. Certainly my conscience makes its argument and I take my moral and religious obligations into consideration. And perhaps that’s all we can do, since most of us don’t have foresight that extends beyond the grave in a literal way.

Even if this awareness doesn’t perceptibly change the way I behave, thinking of people as eternal subtly changes my view of humans. Hehehe. I’m currently envisioning a room full of eternal souls instead of just bodies… how odd!

Could the ways I contribute to the development of my daughter’s heart and mind have eternal ramifications? I’m not trying to make parents feel even greater burden than they already do, here… just following a train of thought. 🙂

I have a very hard time understanding who I am apart from my body. For example, I might feel strongly, passionately moved by something and attribute it to my unique personality and spiritual self but how much of that is in fact attributable to the chemicals and hormones at work in my body, shaping my emotions? I don’t know what the soul is without the body. I don’t know what kind of existence we will lead after death, what kind of individuality we will retain. I spent some time reading verses about life after death yesterday and this morning. While the Bible gives us plenty of references, there is also still plenty of mystery as far as I’m concerned.

So, I’m curious: In your interactions with people, are you ever conscious of their immortality?

Happy Sunday!