oh brother, where art thou?

i think i was twelve when i starting wanting an older brother.

my timing was admittedly off. i would always have been the oldest child.

i sometimes envy my friends who have older brothers. i have several great guy friends who i appreciate very much … but it’s not the same.

an older brother is someone to tease and be teased by. to ask questions of. to be defended by and defend fiercely. to get into trouble with. to talk to about the littles and bigs of life. to go on brother-sister dates with. to laugh with. to cry with, if you’re so lucky. to give hugs to and be hugged by. to terrorize and surprise and support your parents alongside. to learn from why guys are so weird and explain to why girls are so crazy.

i walked very slowly to the library today, trying to soak in the gladness of the sunshine and the finally cool breeze. i’ve been waking up with a cloud over my head. i don’t like it. i feel like i should feel guilty about something … only i don’t know what. about being happy? about things that make me happy? about things that make me frustrated and angry and impatient? about things that are hard and i don’t know why they are? about what i do or don’t do; about the people i spend time or don’t spend time with?

i walk slowly anyway, but i walk very slowly when i’m thinking. i thought about older brothers and how i’d love to have one. about how it was never a possibility. about how none of my friends could fill that older brother spot. then something from a recent sermon on esau and jacob jogged my memory: Jesus was our perfect older brother. esau, if you remember, wasn’t all that great of an older brother. neither was the one in the story of the prodigal sons. goodness, neither was cain, the original older brother. i think it’s timothy keller who says Jesus was the perfect older brother in that he went after the prodigal children and brought us back to restore us to full favor with our Father — and more than that, since He gave us equal firstborn status with Himself and didn’t relegate us to being second-class sons.

i almost teared up on the sidewalk when i remembered that.

true, it’s not the same as having a person physically present in the now of my life to see, talk to and touch. it’s not the same as having someone who responds audibly to my questions and frustrations.

but i forget sometimes that Jesus is a real flesh and blood person with a body and with human sensations, emotions and reactions in addition to being God. we call Him “God Incarnate” and forget that the “carnate” part means “flesh,” and that “flesh” denotes “person.” or at least i forget.

i was reading jeremiah this morning and, for the first time, started thinking of him as a person and not just a historical figure or a prophet or what have you. i don’t mean to say that i ever doubted his existence: not at all. but i had never thought about him as a person whose heart ached, who was embarrassed by the messages of violence and condemnation God spoke to him, who burned within if he didn’t speak, who wept for the destruction and hard-heartedness of his countrymen, who was angry and ashamed at the way his enemies and friends treated him. do you know God told him not to get married and have kids? He did; a little bit of my soul bonded with jeremiah’s at that point, even though i haven’t read yet any mourning over his single, childless state.

i have to sit inside someone’s head sometimes to realize and recognize their personhood. to recognize that, though we are not carbon copies, we are alike — to understand the import of that phrase. jeremiah and Jesus were both extremely real people, and someday i’ll get to meet both of them and won’t have to merely imagine them anymore.

i’m not quite sure what this song by bison is about, but when i listened to it this evening i imagined it was Jesus speaking, and it helped me remember His realness and personhood again.

tired hands

You stayed an hour
From where I once laid
With back on the grass
And feet where it was paved
Where water mixed in
With the rust and decay

You slept while I wept
You slept
I wept

Twenty-four hours of waiting is not that long (Hey)
But dear, as the light starts to fading,
My heart grows fond (Hey)
It’s a product of absence I’m sure
Still I over-analyze (Hey)
A day without words makes me wonder
If your fingers grew tired
If you misplaced the wires

Under the water
Out the other side
We were intercepted
By fathers and scribes
With burnt offerings
We had finally arrived

You slept while I wept
You slept
I wept

maybe tomorrow i’ll wake up with a cloud over my head again; it comes and goes throughout the day and i wish it would just dry up and rain sunshine.

but Jesus was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. and He’s my older brother.