+ + +
My Brother’s Keeper
During this last week, I spent a significant amount of time researching a financial product so I could assist my younger brother with an important decision he will need to make in the next few months. My brother is about to become 62 years old, and since I am seven years older than him, our thoughts have been turning more and more as to how we might best prepare for the future as neither of us has children or a spouse to care for us. My brother is generally capable and can manage his household. However, when complicated decisions are involved, he often turns to me for assistance. As the dutiful older sister, I take these requests seriously because my mother always told me to look out for him and to take care of him. By the way parents, I understand what you are hoping when you ask older siblings to take care of younger ones. You are encouraging them to look out for each other. However, it would be great if you could put an end date on the request. After all it was one thing to look after my brother when he was twelve or before he turned twenty-one. He’s sixty-two now and honestly someone as hyper-responsible as me can struggle with this request as most grown folk won’t do as you say just because you told them to do it.
On Friday, my brother called me and told me that he already talked with people about his financial situation and that he was ready to move forward on his choices even though he had not yet benefited from my extensive research and counsel. We talked about this for a while. However, it became clear to me that he made his choice even though I thought he needed to know more and take more time to weigh the pros and cons before going forward. The consequences of a lousy choice would be significant, and it looked to me that he was about to make the wrong decision.
While struggling with several emotions after the call, annoyance, fear, anxiety, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility for not doing a good enough job convincing him how wrong this decision was, it finally occurred to me to ask God for help. God said, “Let go. Trust me. I got this!” You might think that God’s response would be enough for me, and yet I continued to stew about this situation for a bit until I reflected on the Gospel lesson for today.
As you may recall, Jesus was in the wilderness alone for forty days with nothing to eat. All he might have known is that Spirit told him to go there with no promises or guarantees that it would be a great retreat. Nevertheless, Jesus went. He trusted God, and as far as we know, that trust is all he took with him. Most of us have read or listened to enough scripture at this point in our lives to realize that the evil one likes nothing better than to try to separate us from the love of God. Whenever there is a disaster or stressful time, the evil one slides right up next to us and says things like, “Where is your God now?” “Why didn’t your God protect you?” “Why did God let that bad thing happen to you?” “Why didn’t God let you have what you wanted?” Always looking for a way to cast doubt and sew discord. The evil one knows all our weak spots and how to tempt us into thinking that God is off playing golf or doing something more interesting than worrying about our little problems.
And then I realized that in fretting over my brother’s decision, I had given in to temptation. The evil one had tempted me into thinking that I needed to act like God in my brother’s life. It was a subtle temptation and it was real. I had been tempted into thinking that only I could take care of my brother and guide him. I was acting as though he did not have the same God as me. The same God who guides my decisions and counsels me. The same God who shows me how to take the right path to the best outcome. The same God who walks with me through the valley of the shadow of death and brings me into the light every time. I had forgotten that God loves my brother just as he loves me and that I needed to trust that God, not me, would best guide my brother’s decisions.
In the days ahead, each of us may find that we have difficult decisions to make. We may have challenges and worries that take up too much headspace. We may be tempted to think that we are alone, and there is no one to help us. We may find ourselves in a wilderness of our own making because we give in to our fears and anxieties. There is a way to deal with these temptations.
When the serpent led Eve and Adam astray, they did not have the benefit of learning from Jesus how to resist temptation. We are blessed because we know our savior. We have a role model who teaches us how to stay close to God and how to trust God in all things. We don’t need to control the outcome when we make a decision. We don’t need to worry about the future. We only need to seek and strengthen our relationship with God continually, and all the answers we need will be there.
Teresa of Avila said, “. . . it is presumptuous in me to wish to choose my path, because I cannot tell which path is best for me. I must leave it to the Lord, who knows me, to lead me by the path, which is best for me, so that in all things His will may be done.” It was presumptuous for me to think that I had to be the one to ensure that my brother made the right choice. He is his own man and he has his own God. I trust our God to do what is best for both of us.