For years, I thought my 哥哥 (pronounced ge ge, meaning older brother in Mandarin) didn’t like me. Both of us were home-schooled and spent much of our time together. I can still recount the many times he’d tell me to go away, and the times he’d belittle me in front of his friends. We eventually went to different public schools and grew increasingly distant. I felt a distinct sense of loss but I couldn’t imagine how things could be different. The sign on his door was etched in my mind:
At a friend’s nudging, I half-heartedly prayed that my brother and I would grow closer. I yearned for that but I didn’t know how. Maybe God would change him to like me better? Instead, I was the one who slowly changed. I began to focus on long-forgotten memories. The time when my brother had taken the rap for me: he’d bargained to be disciplined twice if my ma would let me off even though both of us had broken the house rules together - and a precious photo frame in the process. Or when he taught me to climb trees, boulders, and other natural formations. And when my parents were in home meetings, he’d make a tent out of his blankets for us to play in. These fond memories reminded me that my brother really did love me.
I imagined what it would be like to have a closer relationship with him. The friend who nudged me to pray had shared about her own journey with her sister and how their relationship had healed and blossomed over time. Other friends asked me what I was doing, in turn, to grow my relationship with my brother. They held me accountable and gave me the hope I needed to take action.
Acting on this opened up new possibilities. Leaving notes on his door to welcome him back from trips, telling him about my day, and asking him out for a meal was not as unimaginable as I had previously thought. My brother’s then girlfriend, now his wife, offered us ideas for what we could do together. She encouraged us to hang out more and invited me along on their adventures. Conversation after conversation, I came to treasure the time we spent together.
It takes courage to hope for the good. For this one story, there are 10 others where my dreams have come to naught: estranged friendships that never mended; a major writing project that failed; a romantic relationship of many years that ended. I’m tempted to think that if I hold on to bad experiences, I can inoculate myself and be on guard when they occur again. But when I focus on the bad, I’m also giving up on the possibility to create the good.
As with my earlier memory, all I could see then was the sign telling me to keep out or get lost. When I take my cue from that, I’m confronted with a list of do-nots. However, dwelling on the good and acting on it opens up new possibilities. Yes, I might get disappointed, but as with my post-its stuck defiantly on his door, being open to the possibilities means that things don’t have to stay the same. There’s room for change, and I have a role in creating that change.
It’s timely for me to write this now. Tomorrow is Good Friday. As a Christian, I tend to be suspicious of God. Like how I was with my brother, I often doubt that God really cares about me. Why would I be important to Him? For me, to celebrate Good Friday is to remember the ultimate gift of reconciliation that God has offered to us, and the sacrifice He made to do so. Remembering this gives me solid ground to stand on and courage to hope for the good.