Summer at Home
Every summer for the past few years has been a question for me: how is God going to use this experience outside of my normal life to change me and perfect me? It used to be so simple. In the summer, I just was at home, hanging out with whoever I could convince my mom to let me have over and playing video games, and by video games I mostly mean Pokemon. Also, there were days upon days of lego building. Life was simple and good—not that life is bad now, but it’s different; gosh, dangit, I can be nostalgic at the age of 19 if I want to. Don’t judge.
Anyways, in the summers of 2010 and 2011, I worked at Lake Ann, where I met my brothers, Tim and Adam. It was a big deal for me, a real step of faith for a 17 year old. I learned a great deal about me and God and other people, but that’s not what this post is about. After the summer of 2011, Lake Ann had become comfortable for me. I had been through all the programs, worked in the kitchen and as a counselor for sixth grade boys; just in general, I knew what Lake Ann was about. Comfortable isn’t a place God calls Christians to be. I would even say that comfort is dangerous for us.
It’s an interesting tension: we, as normal human beings, like being in situations we understand, but God calls us to so much more than that. He calls us to do things that aren’t comfortable for any person no matter how experienced they are at them—things like witnessing and living a holy life. If we aren’t used to working outside of our comfort zone, we’ll never fulfill the beautiful purpose God has for each of us on this Earth.
While Lake Ann had become comfortable to me, my home had become significantly less so. Don’t get the wrong impression: I have a great relationship with my family. I love being around them more than any other people in this world. Somehow, though, while I had been away at Lake Ann the summer of 2011 and then at college for the rest of the year and through the spring, I had forgotten how to live as part of my family. It seems like such a simple thing, but it really is a skill. At college, I was responsible for my own self and nothing else. I had many responsibilities as one person, more than I had ever had before, but I still didn’t really need to think about anybody but myself. In a family, that is patently not so.
Home was where I spent my summer. It wasn’t really because of the whole comfort thing I just talked about, but a variety of factors convinced me that home was where I needed to be. The plan was that I was going to be a big brother for the summer, full time. I had always been a big brother, but that had never been my primary purpose for existing, and the goal was for that to be my main purpose for the summer. I didn’t always succeed, and when I did, I wasn’t always the best big brother I could be, but I got better at it as the summer went on.
Joel is my bro, not just my brother. This kid is the sweetest one I’ve ever met. He’s happy nearly all the time, and he never gets angry. He’s deeply curious about how the world works, but he doesn’t let that curiosity become so dominant that he forgets he lives in a world with other people; that’s my tendency. In a lot of ways, he’s who I wished I was. He’s also a teenager. Teenagers need big brothers. If you’re a teenager and you don’t have a big brother, get one. Now.
Abby and Jesse are little twin balls of energy. They always have to be doing something, and that something better not be school. Luckily for them, I like doing stuff, too. Jesse likes building things, and Abby likes tearing things down. Jesse likes eating, and Abby likes being done eating. They are opposites and so much the same. They are best friends, and on some days they are reviled enemies. They need a big brother, too, and they have one, (Joel, make sure you’re being a good big brother. I’ll be paying attention) but there’s enough of them that having another big brother isn’t a bad thing.
This was one of the best summers of my life. I got to spend so much time with these kids, and I loved every moment of it. (I didn’t get to spend much time with my sister Anna because she was gone doing various things for most of the summer. Oh well.) We went to the park and played don’t touch the lava. We read books together. They showed me how to play a bunch of different games in the pool. I hope that they liked having me around as much as I enjoyed being around them.
More than anything else, though, I hope that I as a big brother showed them something. For my little sister, Abby, I hope I showed her just a little bit what she should be looking for in a husband in some far off day. I know that doesn’t seem very likely that she’ll think back in fifteen years on that summer she spent with her big brother, but maybe I can affect just a little bit her perspective on what it means to be a man. Maybe my love will be remembered if nothing else, and she won’t settle for mere attraction.
For my brothers, Jesse and Joel, my hope is much the same. I’m not very good at being a man of God, but then nobody is. They have one amazing example of manhood in their lives in my father, and hopefully I showed them a little more what it looks like to be growing in maturity and wisdom.
I love you guys, though not nearly as well as I should. This, in a lot of ways, was the hardest summer of my life: sometimes I just wanted to be away at Lake Ann or somewhere else. This was also the best one. Thank you.