I was twenty when I married St. Michael, and he was thirty-five. (Another story for another time!) Anytime we were in a group, whether with friends, co-workers, relatives, or folks at church (the church thing happened eventually), I was always the baby of the group. It was okay that I didn’t take on certain responsibilities because I was the baby – it was almost expected that I’d be a little irresponsible. It was okay if I didn’t know how to do something – I was inexperienced; after all, I was the baby. It was okay if my reactions and responses were immature at times – people knew that I was still young; I was the baby.
Well, it occurred to me a while back that I wasn’t the baby in anybody’s group anymore. But, still, I was in no hurry to put on my big-girl panties and actually be all mature about everything all the time. And I was good with that. After all, there are a lot of perks to being the baby. (Just ask my youngest!)
Then disaster struck.
I found out last summer that I was going to lose someone close to me. No, he wasn’t going to die – although, to be honest, it felt at times like I was – he was simply embracing a new God-given opportunity that required relocating. A move that was good for him, good for his family, good for the Kingdom of God, for Heaven’s sake! But, it meant that he would no longer be my pastor. No longer be my mentor. No longer be my brother, my friend. No. Stop. That part’s not true. But that’s how it felt. And I grieved. And grieved. And grieved.
It’s okay to grieve. Even big girls get to grieve. But this grief was big. GI-NOR-MOUS, in fact. At times, all-encompassing. It became a deep, dark chasm that I didn’t know how to work my way safely around. Fortunately, as well as brotha-friends, Papa gives us sistah-friends. As I shared my grief with a close sister who has the wonderful gift of discernment, she gently pointed out that it was possible that, without my even realizing it, I was grieving the loss of who I viewed myself to be in connection to my brother.
Whoa. Like big-time, major stop-the-presses WHOA.
She was right.
My brother validated me. He validated me in ways that few people in my life have. He knew my unpolished, ragged, rough, still-under-construction edges, and yet he chose to see me and treat me as the completed woman Papa-God designed me to be. His quiet, matter-of-fact faith in my spiritual gifts and talents not only enabled me to believe in myself but led others to trust in my leadership and abilities. When Papa asked me to take on totally-out-of-my-comfort-zone responsibilities and never-before-faced challenges in the midst of new ministry opportunities, it was this brother’s voice that Papa used again and again to affirm my calling, to steady my steps, and to shed light on the path and provide encouragement for the journey. How could I go forward without that voice? How could I continue to walk my race. much less run it, if he wasn't there to coach me, to cheer me on?
By growing up. Yup. By growing up.
It’s time to walk for a while without needing someone hold my hand. Without being afraid of stumbling, of maybe even falling flat on my face. It’s time to realize that I don’t always have to have someone there, ready to catch me, but that, instead, I am perfectly capable of regaining my footing or dusting myself off if I do go down, getting back up on my feet, and then moving on. A little bloodied maybe, but still moving onward. (This might also mean that I need to learn where the Band-Aids are kept instead of always wanting someone to run and get one for me.)
Does growing up mean, then, that I don’t need anybody else? To quote another brother, Paul, “May it never be!” It just means that I don’t need to be dependent on one specific person to be my “primary caregiver.” I need to be open to letting others invest in my life, and I need to invest more of myself into the lives of others, as well. It’s time for me to be the affirmer, the encourager, the sister who takes someone else by the hand and says, “Let me walk with you for a while, so you don’t have to go it on your own.” (After all, big girls feel free enough from self-consciousness to focus on meeting the needs of others without always having to ask, “Am I doing it right? Am I good enough to do this? Did I do an okay job?”)
As for my friend, he will always be my brother. No matter where he is. And I will always be his sister. After all, we have the same Father. And if we are willing, it is He who raises His children, growing us up into the likeness of His image.
Grins and blessings,