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?