I get asked often where I come up with the content for these weekly devotionals, a question that is completely flattering and humbling on its own merit. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer and truth be told, I kinda was hoping someone much more talented than me would have stepped up by now to write or “preach” these weekly montages that I label as “devotionals”. This week’s devotional published on the WAWA website marks number twenty-six….and if you include the many, many weeks I delivered some message before making the decision to begin publishing them to the site, then perhaps my run stretches over a year. And if you’re one of those individuals who considered “stepping up” to give me some relief, but decided against it…..thanks, I suppose, for making me put together some thoughts on a weekly basis with the hopes it might be meaningful to at least one other person, besides my wife and my mom who, by the way, always tell me “it’s great” no matter how much they might think otherwise!
But seriously, there are some weeks where the writing just pops from my brain, to keyboard, to Internet without much thought ahead of time. And there’s the opposite weeks where maybe some central themes have been bumping around in my head, just waiting to be launched. This week’s message was one of the latter. Let me explain….
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a single word…..”Brotherhood”. Everything sorta came to a head earlier this week when I came home to eat leftovers for lunch. I had a late cancellation of a noon-time, meeting which allowed me to take the short 10 minute drive from South Park to my home…and feast on some leftover pork tenderloin that my mother-in-law had brought over the night before. And I had been thinking about it all morning….!
I removed the tenderloin, slapped some angle-hair spaghetti….also leftover….to the side of a plate, nuked it in the microwave for 3 minutes…and my meal was ready. I propped myself up on one of the kitchen stools at the center island and dug in. I wasn’t in the mood for watching cable news, so I instead scrolled through my news feed on Facebook. Something caught my eye, a video clip about a Navy SEAL who was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan. In speaking to a packed audience at the Pentagon, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, talked about the three things that helped him endure several deployments to multiple combat zones. Those three things were his family, his faith, and his brotherhood. Arguably the first two were somewhat obvious to those in the room listening to that speech, and also to me listening during my lunch hour.
The brotherhood portion, however, reminded me of those thoughts that had been rattling around in my mind. Years ago, I remember hearing a sermon by the senior pastor at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Vic Pentz, talk about heroic actions soldiers would take especially when taking enemy fire. Were their actions for God and country? Many times, the answer was no. Instead, soldiers recounted that they did things because of the men on their left and right; they did things for their buddies.
As I listened to Byers speak, he was echoing the same thoughts. And, like many who have received prestigious recognition of bravery and valor as Medal of Honor recipients, he spoke humbly about how his actions were no different than the ones his “brothers” would have done if they too were in the same circumstances. I’ve read many accounts by Medal of Honor awardees over the years, and the comments are remarkably similar.
What takes me back, however, is that where did we come up with the term “brotherhood”? I grew up with a younger brother…just three years shy of my own age. We fought more often than we hugged, I’m certain. And now as the father of two boys, I see the same actions in them. They are constantly at each others throats, one putting the other in a headlock, or lobbing a sucker-punch from the cheap seats when the other sibling wasn’t looking. I ask other dads….”Do your boys fight too”. “Oh yeh…like cats and dogs! It drives us crazy,” one dad might lament.
Then I think back to my own experiences as a “big brother”. Yes, while my brother and I would fight, you didn’t want to be someone from outside the family who was picking on “younger brother”. No way! It was okay for me to inflict punishment…but never okay for anyone else. Those other dads shared similar stories. “They fight like cats and dogs…but stand up for each other on the playground….”.
So perhaps that is what’s meant by the term brotherhood. It’s the looking out for one another. It’s the willingness to defend the family honor…the team’s reputation…or even the nation’s highest standards of freedom. Scripture tells us in the Gospel of John, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (King James version, John 15:13). Dr. Pentz preached that Sunday on this very verse of scripture…when telling the story of soldiers in combat. How they did things…often acts of heroism, for their “friends”…for their brothers.
Last week, I gathered at Fort Benning, Georgia, with nearly 30 of my “brothers and sisters”, all graduates from our same class at West Point, as we bid farewell to a fallen classmate. The memorial ceremony was beautiful and nearly all of us were seated in several rows. Not sure if that was by chance or on purpose…but we bonded together in brotherhood; prayed together, cried a little bit, but not showing any of those tears to anyone to the left or right!
The world needs a little more brotherhood these days, in my opinion. It’s certainly what Jesus taught us…..and I’m certain, it’s something we’re all a little more familiar with than we may realize.
And as for me, this weekend I’m going to call my “little” brother, give him one of those virtual headlocks over the phone, but remind him how much he means to me.
Won’t you join me in doing the same in your own family, neighborhood, church, or anywhere…..? Be the “bigger” brother…..