Speaking of my sons....
They were a funny squad of soldiers, banded together to negotiate the dangers of the church parking lot. Reuben, at the mature age of 5, was eldest and naturally assumed the role of sergeant. "Everybody hold hands!" He reached for little brother Nate with his left, and toddler Tom with his right. And then Toby trotted up to steady the stumbling Thomas. Toby, the 21-year-old man-child with Down Syndrome, delighted to be part of the gang, beaming as he joined hands with "The Brothers."
I'm not sure who articulated the label first - if it was Steve/dad, or Toby, or one of the other parents in our little church in Old Hickory. But it stuck. Soon, my boys were referred to collectively as The Brothers. "Here come The Brothers," someone would comment, rushing to open a door for the little soldiers. Toby was usually a part of their play and their tiny man conversations. "I love The Brothers!" He radiated such deep and sincere affection for his comrades.
Then we moved from Nashville to the Memphis area. New neighborhood, new people, new church.
My boys were bigger, and there were more of them. Four boys now - 2, 3, 5, and 7. Four boys growing into young men. God blessed my sons with more brothers, brothers in our fellowship at Unity. Michael and Joel and little Davy, Hadyn and Heath, Paul and Alex....This mob of boys tumbling about the green lawn so greatly expanded the fellowship of The Brothers that a new name was in order - and so we meet The Other Brothers.
"Hello, my Other Brother!" one would enthuse as he tackled a friend just arriving at the church.
Now, many years later, the band of brothers has grown and matured and broadened. While some are still little fellows racing about the church lawn, others are now men in college. Other brothers have joined the family - by marrying The Brothers' sisters. Others have knit their hearts to my sons' hearts over the course of a shared homeschool journey.
Similarly, I have so many precious sisters in Christ. (God has such a beautiful family!) I noticed recently a peculiar distinction I make when introducing various friends. "This is my friend ______." "This is my dear friend _____." "This is my sister in Christ, ______."
But there is a tiny knot of women I refer to simply as My Sisters. "This is My Sister _____."
My Sister. She sees my most broken places. She knows the hurts of my heart, my struggles with sin, the grossness of my pride and vanity. She understands both the strength and the weakness of my faith. She walks beside me as I struggle to practically live out what it means to trust Christ and to love Him supremely. My Sister loves me, weeps with me, laughs with me, admonishes and encourages me. She provides a safe haven and protects me, but has the courage and fortitude to wound me when it is needful for my sanctification.
I trust her with my confidences, and do not fear that she will gossip or abuse me. I am not afraid to tell her, "This is too hard! I need a bigger God!" She doesn't hesitate to answer, "God is bigger than you can ever imagine." She always, always, always challenges me to know and to love Christ better.
Warren Wiersbe once said, "The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battle field." So true. And I am so very thankful that God has not appointed us to be lone soldiers, living this battle at solitary outposts. He has appointed a band of brothers, a band of sisters to fight alongside us.
Yes, Toby, I feel the same: I love the Brothers...and the Sisters.
2 days ago