I remember our last family vacation the summer before my dad died.
Our family traveled to Maui and I am forever thankful for some of the beautiful memories that were made there. One memory made was our exploration of the well known Road to Hana, a 55 mile stretch of road that exudes the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation. We had to take 2 cars for our family of 6. Ben, the youngest of my siblings, was riding in the jeep with one of my other siblings, Dad, and I. If you know my brother, or you have ever known him, you would agree that he knows how to talk. During our ride, Ben’s God-given enthusiasm for life was pouring out of him by way of words. I remember Dad setting a rule in place, “Ben, you can say one sentence per mile that we drive”. The poor kid had gotten in trouble for, as he would say at that time, “denominating” the conversation. Every mile, Dad would give Ben the opportunity to share another sentence of his story, yet Ben’s 8 year old mind couldn’t wrap his brain around picking up where the story had last left off without a recap, so he was never able to get past the first few sentences. We laughed that day about it, and we still do today.
Ben was my dad’s only son, and a perfect little mini-me of him. An outspoken, adventurous, full of life little kid that brought so much joy to our family. The day my dad died, it changed everything for all of us, especially for him. Ben struggled to process the pain of losing Dad. He struggled with a deep rooted anger that infected him to his core. Though incredibly intelligent, he crawled his way all through school, eventually turning toward drugs as a coping mechanism. It was as if we were slowly watching him die and didn’t know how to help. Believe me, this wasn’t for lack of effort on anyone’s part. My mother, family and friends poured into this hurting heart, but our sincerest efforts were not what could rescue him.
By the time Ben graduated high school, he had slipped into a downward spiral. Depression was deep. No matter how much good was in his life, a dark cloud fogged his ability to see clearly. He struggled to see any good in the world or in people. He sat at times with my dad’s handgun in his lap contemplating the unthinkable.
A series of events led Ben to pursue a fresh start at Teen Challenge, a discipleship based program for men struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. By the absolute grace and goodness of God, my brother has been CHANGED. For the first time since my Dad’s death, I have seen him whole again. But is he broken? Yes. Are all his problems gone? No. What has changed in him lies in his submission. All the weight, all the years of anger and pain- He has laid them at the feet of our Father. Ben’s wholeness lies in the work of Christ in his life.
This morning I visited a church where Teen Challenge was visiting. My brother had the opportunity to share his story-his story of pain, but more his story of hope. As I sat there this morning, I was absolutely moved to tears as I watched my brother spend more time glorifying the goodness of God than dwelling on the pain of his life experiences. He spoke Truth over those people. His goal was not for them to hear his sufferings, it was to edify the church and to Glorify God. His heart was to see people in that building changed the way he had been changed. At the end of the service, I watched my brother walk over to a broken family friend, hug her, and start praying over her. Then my mom walked over. Then her friend. They all wept as he prayed. I wept as I watched from afar. God’s work in Him is influencing others. It’s encouraging them. Inspiring them. Reminding them of how He makes all things new.
My gratitude today is deep. He has turned ashes to beauty.