Friday, January 08, 2010

Two people, two different outcomes

My brother-in-law passed away during the early evening hours yesterday.  The announcement came as a relief for those of us who had watched him suffer, knowing the long time of "hanging on" was having a very difficult affect on his immediate family.

As I thought of him last night, I was reminded of the remarkable changes in his life.  For most of the years I have known him (he and my sister started dating when I was a toddler), he and I pretty much avoided each other.  To be honest, I didn't like him at all.  He was a bragger, rude, vile, always out to make the "easy buck" (spending time in the state penitentiary for white collar crime), and the kind of man one didn't want their young daughters around.

He thought of my husband and I as being arrogant with too much education and far too much religion.  He constantly spoke against us as our lives took such different paths.  But... something happened as his illness progressed over the years.

He had often been in and out of churches but there came a time when he developed a true relationship with the person of Jesus Christ (amazing).  I have seen that much change in only one other family member, my sister Alice when she came to Christ when I was in my twenties.  She had been a wild teenager and woman who became a truly godly woman over the years.  She passed away when Christopher was a baby (remembering that all my siblings are much, much older than I am).

Now, my brother-in-law was in his 60's when this change came about so the outer man was still somewhat the same but the inner man became sweeter and sweeter. It was wonderful to see he and my husband become very good friends these past few years.  God does use all of our sufferings.  I believe as he saw us going through very difficult times, it was a situation where we were on equal terms (sigh... misery can love company) and provided even more possibilities of bonding.  He will be missed.

I can't help but compare his life to that of my husband's sister.  Although she has attended church all of her life (and never misses an opportunity to be there), her heart is filled with hatred and venom against her parents and me.  It has come to the point now where we had to let her know she was no longer welcome in our home.  We realized her own decisions and actions had made it necessary to limit even phone contact with my husband... for the sake of his own mental and emotional health.

Knowing she is Aspergers, we have tried to give her leeway but her meltdowns have become more serious and the threat of physical injury (to moi') is increasing.  The seeds of bitterness were planted early and have grown since her parents passed away in the 1990's.  As for me... it has always bewildered me that she has such an intense hatred when we have never spent much time together.

However, my in-laws were very critical people who often spoke against me (as well as just about everyone else in their life... including their own children).  Those words planted seeds of bitterness toward them and the people they talked about (including me) in my sister-in-law.  My husband has suffered from emotional difficulties and his brother found his own way to deal with a critical childhood... words can hurt in such a way as to affect generations long after they were spoken.

Just yesterday he started shouting at me and became very angry when I was talking to him and I had to remind him that I was not his father (I wish I had a nickel for every time the children and I have had to tell him that).  Thankfully, he has changed a great deal over the years and such outbursts have become rare but it has taken hours upon hours upon hours of absorbing God's Word and prayer.

I don't know if you heard what Brit Hume recommended to Tiger Woods on Fox News Sunday last week.  I just about fell off the sofa when he said it and I have heard it has been replayed (and mocked) on other news shows.  He said that Tiger should accept Christ as only He can offer the forgiveness and change he must have in his life.  (I believe Brit is Catholic and has said he came into a deeper relationship with Jesus after his son committed suicide.)

But it is true and I've seen changes in people whom I would never have expected to ever change.  So, there is hope for my husband's sister. 

Isn't it sad that someone can spend a lifetime in church and never truly understand what it means to have a relationship with Jesus? 


Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail on the head!! As much as I WISH I did not know what you are talking are on a similar journey to the one we are on. NOT one we chose. Yea, I am the bad guy here too...from the vantage point of my hubby's kin anyway. I am glad that there is ONE who knows all and ultimately truth will prevail. I am not a perfect person, but I have taken years of verbal abuse. Now it is mostly just being ignored, which is preferable.

And then the other big problem person (on my side) had a massive stroke last night and he has kept all of us kids out of the now my brother there and me a continent away have to try to deal with his treatment, or not, etc. Issues we NEVER wanted to deal with...and we basically know nothing of whatever he had arranged. Ah, life...tis never what is expected, nor necessarily deserved. I am glad we have a righteous JUDGE in charge of all things.
HUGS long as these "problems" are alive, they are just themselves and that is not an easy road!!

Laurie said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your brother~in~law.

I have in~laws that are big church goers, and seem to think that gives them the leeway to act however they want the rest of the week.

Personally, I think one's own relationship to Christ is more important than going to a building every week, sitting through some sort of service and feeling you've done your duty. Some of the most wonderful Christians I know don't attend any given church.

I am sorry you have had to deal with such nastiness over the years.

Blessings to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog not long ago,and feel very blessed by your thoughts. Also, so nice to read about a family that isn't "perfect" as some others try to project. It is your transparency that blesses others, and hopefully blesses you in turn.

I too have had similar circumstances in our family,and it just tears me up, but I'm trusting Jesus no matter what happens.

Adrienne said...

Brenda, I am sorry for your loss - but so thankful your dear one isn't suffering any more. There are such differences within families and knowing Jesus personally and the changes He brings to our lives makes all the difference. You are so right in your thoughts - thank you for openly sharing them today. ~Adrienne~

Barb said...

Isn't is odd that so many of us have such similar problems and circumstances? I am truly sorry to hear about your brother in law, It sounds like he really was a good person in the end. And I can sympathize with what you go through with your husbands family - I go through a similar problem with my own family - and it's difficult, to say the least.

You are so wise, I love to read your blog, you give me courage in so many ways! I know that you will be blessed for all of your efforts and goodness.

Blessings, Barb

matty said...


So sorry you have lost your brother-in-law, but so very glad he has gone home. There is so much comfort in knowing that he found his Savior and finding true peace, isn't there?

You just keep being true to you; we love you. And remember, family isn't who you are related to, it is who understands you.



Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. Always difficult to go through, but good to know God is there to give you comfort. Have had a horrible year too with a husband who only hears one side of the story from the in-laws point of view, and ended up almost hating me. Our marriage was almost destroyed because of the words they spoke against me. And if that was not enough, my husband and I started receiving letters from a stalker claiming all sorts of accusations which are completely false, and threatening to take us to court. We don't know who this person is, or why they are attacking us, but one thing I know for sure... My God is still in control, and I read the Psalms to give me comfort and strength.. My God is bigger than anything the enemy can throw at me.

Anonymous said...

Brenda, thank you for sharing that about the heart change with your brother-in-law-it is encouraging to hear that and how wonderful our God is. He can change any heart. I will be praying for his wife and your husband's sister.
I just read the Prodigal God-it is a wonderfual book-talks not only on the younger brother but more on the older brother which is often left out. There are alot of older brothers in the church. It is a very good book.
Thank you again for your encouragement. Kahty

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

It's more than's a true tragedy.

Thankful your bil found Christ and thankful that we are NOT without hope in Christ.

Vee said...

Yes, it is very sad indeed. We must pray that hearts are softened and that the Hound of Heaven will never allow one to fall into apathy. Your brother-in-law sounds like so many we have known. How wonderful that his life made a wonderful change. You might be interested to read what the Pappy's Place blog has to say about the Brit Hume story. I loved it!

WalkingwithHIM said...

I deep understanding as well, similiar lives meet in cyber space. God is good, may He compfort your family through this season of loss and pain. May He bring healing to past hurts and salvation to the deceived.

hmsclmom said...

((((((HUGS))))) Brenda...I'm sorry for the hurt that your family is going through right now. I am thankful however that your BIL came to know Christ is the final years of his illness. There is a peace and comfort in that even though your hearts are grieving.

I'm praying for your SIL who is filled with bitterness. I have a BIL like that also and not having to deal with his bad behaviors has been such a blessing. He knows we love him and when and if he is ready to behave himself, he will be welcomed back with open arms. ;)

Much love,

Emily said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law's passing, Brenda, and will pray for the Lord's comfort for your sister. What solace to know that he is now in the presence of the Lord.

I, too, have been on the receiving end of vitriolic attacks by a professing Christian. It hurts. How much more so for you in that it is a family member. May the Lord melt her heart, as my little daughter prays for those who do not know Christ.

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries™ said...

So sorry for your family's loss and the tough life lessons you all have been through. How wise you are to understand that "words can hurt in such a way as to affect generations long after they were spoken." There is so much power in our words and most people do not realize this truth. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." I send my best thoughts to you my good friend. You do so well as you put and keep your focus on the good and the lovely, regardless of the gauntlet that sometimes assails you. God bless and strengthen you and your family.

freetobeme - Anita said...

It's not only sad, it's almost unbelievable, that folks can attend church all their life and not know about accepting Christ into their heart and life. Yet, I know what you're saying. I'm so glad your brother-in-law found Christ a few years ago so you could have a good relationship with him. I'm sorry for your loss, but happy for the realization that some day you'll be together again.

Patti VZ said...

I am sorry for your loss, but you did a great job on this post! God works in mysterious ways. Keep praying!

Debbie said...

Brenda, it's a blessing to know that your loved one is with the Lord. Every person is a gift and special creation from God; some know and believe it, and some don't. Hence, the difference. Show the love; pray without ceasing.

Heather L. said...

I'm sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. What a blessing your husband and he could grow to be good friends in these last years.

I think we could have some very interesting conversations together about family. :)

Lallee said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your BIL. It gives me encouragement to hear of his coming to know his savior late in life. What a blessing. I see the plight of my in-laws who are un-churched. Their negativity, fear, lack of any hope is so disparaging and continues to grow. I continue to pray God will grasp their hearts. Never too late.

Hugs to you,