God loves your family more than you do (2/5)

What started as brotherhood rooted in anger and rebellion has been radically redeemed to a brotherhood that solely longs to bring glory to Him, Our Father. Drew’s perspective is in regular type, while Josh’s is in italics.



My brother (Josh) is five years older, and as most younger siblings, I teeter-tottered between fearing him and aspiring to be just like him. I was a stuck-up, independent kid, and my brother had an uncontrolled temper. I distinctly remember the public fights, the sprints to security behind the locked bathroom door, and of course, the endless "I hate you's” and "I wish you weren't my brothers”. As Josh left the house when I was 13, our relational-distance only increased.

[I (Josh) grew up always trying to prepare Drew for the next chapter in his life. How that actually manifested was me beating him up and trying to pressure him and expose him to things that were out of his spectrum. None of these things were honoring to God and none of them were honoring for our relationship as brothers. I always wanted us to be cool (popular) and close.]

However, in the midst of our darkness, there's a testimony that shines with pure, radical hope. It's the story of when my brother and I attended a Christian camp together.

I was 15, and more stubborn than ever. My parents recently separated, my brother dropped out of college, and the only thing that held my focus was my new group of friends that liked drinking as much as I did. For me, it was an unspoken expectation from my mom that I would be going to church camp. Therefore, there was no choice, especially when it was matched with an unexplained support from my brother. Everything caught me off guard that week.

During worship, I felt an inner battle going on, but continued to suppress any feelings towards changing. I held back those feelings until one night, my brother knelt in front of me, and through his tear-filled eyes cried out in desperation for me to come to Jesus. Later that night, I did pray to accept Jesus into my heart.

[I dropped out of college and was selling drugs. I had the realization that my life wasn’t panning out as I hoped. A friend reached out to me and invited me to attend summer camp as staff to help play games with the kids. I was confused at the invitation, but I was open to seeing where it went. Staff arrived a day early, and that day, someone prayed for me the very thoughts that were on my heart and in my head. I then accepted Jesus into my life. The rest of the week was amazing and I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit to start stepping out. One of those promptings was to reach out to my brother, who was a student at camp. One day during worship, I was overwhelmed, and felt compelled to go speak with him. I needed him to know that Jesus was for him and that He is real. I knew it was strange for him to see me, of all people, acting like this - worshiping without reserve, praying for people, and speaking of Jesus. I remember feeling so close to Drew in these moments. There were tears, and there was acceptance. Drew accepted Jesus that week, and the two of us knew God was real. Six days after this encounter I left for basic training with the military.]

Unfortunately, my brother and I both made choices regardless of this newfound understanding of God. Two days later, I was back with my old friends getting drunk. My brother did the similar thing. Although my brother and I walked away in the same way, my brother was very public about it, while I kept it all hidden. When my brother would try and bond with me by sharing party stories, I would reject him, as if I didn't do any of that. This rejection was a real killer in our relationship. Things started to change when I went off to college, though. Away from home, I suddenly felt alright with opening up about my wrong choices. This openness allowed my brother and I to start bonding again.

[I was in the military for a few years before Drew went to college. Both of us drifted from Christ. I received a phone call from Drew once, he shared some of his immoral exploits from college. I remember being so happy to connect with him on something. I used to love those phone calls, and on one of those calls I remember it being very different. Drew wasn’t on the same page anymore.]

In July 2013, I made the decision to not just accept Jesus, but to truly surrender and give Him my life. As I rid myself of my poor choices, suddenly my brother and I's relationship was left with nothing, yet again.

In this decision, God spoke to me about my family. God spoke to me about becoming an older brother, in the spiritual sense, that I would lead my brother. God spoke to me about my brother doing a DTS (short for “Discipleship Training School” - a missionary training school with YWAM - Youth With A Mission) one day. I was a bit confused, as I was about to go do my own DTS, but I kept the word in my back pocket. On my DTS, a girl heard God speak to her about my brother doing a DTS, and she knew nothing about him. Her and I went on a road trip after our DTS and we visited my brother. His life was in shambles, and it was clear.

One night, my brother and I were sitting outside and he expressed to me his desperation to be right with God, but he didn't know how. I tried expressing the freedom to choose the right path, but he wasn't ready. The next few months, I listened through the phone as my brother was destroying his life. God gave me the grace to listen, and the words to say, but as soon as he hung up, I bawled my eyes out and prayed.

Another night, I was in a worship time and we started to pray for the unsaved people in our lives. I instantly thought of my brother. We prayed for their eyes to be opened to their destructive lives, and to be supernaturally reminded of us (the ones in the room), and desire what we have: relationship with Jesus. No joke, twenty minutes later, I got a phone call from my brother. He was outside the courthouse, suddenly realizing the destruction his choices were causing. Through his tears, he spoke about desiring a life like mine; one of freedom, joy, and wholeness. This is the moment I saw my brothers life begin to change.

[When I heard that Drew was doing a DTS with YWAM, I had no idea what it really meant. I thought, ‘well that’s good, do what makes you happy.’ After Drew finished his DTS, him and a friend were going to swing through Norcal to see me. I threw a big party the night before Drew arrived, and had actually forgotten exactly which day Drew was coming. When he showed up, unexpected, we hung out for a bit, then we set off for Lake Tahoe. Tahoe was always a place where Drew and I would get along quite well, and truly enjoy each other while snowboarding on vacation.

To be honest, the time in Tahoe was kind of a blur. I think I was still drinking heavily but I do remember my brother being so convincing that I should do a DTS after I got out of the military. He felt so strongly about it. The brother that was talking to me was radically sold out for Jesus. He was on a level I had never seen before in anyone, much less my brother. We parted ways and I went back to the life I was comfortable with. That life was riddled with poor decisions that often led to confusion and anxiety, because of false handles on life. When those false handles broke and I lost control, I called the one person felt had a grip: my brother.

I would call and I would be a wreck and I would just let him try to sort me out. He was my Band-Aid, the one I would bounce all my struggles and ideas off of. I loved his feedback because it was honest, so different, and always made me feel better. I saw Christ in Drew, and in his friends. I saw joy from a distance, even though I was often on the other side of the world. But he had something I wanted.

About 10 months before I was scheduled to leave the military, I put myself in a poor situation. I was facing charges for a crime I didn’t commit. I was scared and I reached out to God. I made an oath and I said that if all these charges were dropped I would do a DTS when I get out of the military. For months I tried being a “good man.” I went to church more and tried to party less. I was headed back to Minnesota from California for Christmas. I talked to my brother, who at the time was recently on staff with YWAM in Perth, Australia. He told me a bunch of his friends were going to a Christian conference called “One Thing.” It sounded good to me and I was hungry for a change so I hopped on board with his friends. The second day I was there I had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit and I was just like, “Wow, I cannot believe I had been saying no to this for so long.” I went back to California and God started to completely transform my life. I had six months left before my separation from the Military. I walked those six months out in complete peace. The Lord told me that the charges would drop and that He had me. When the charges officially did drop I knew that I was going to do a DTS and hold up my end of the oath.]

As I watched my brother’s life change through Facebook, and heard stories through the phone, I couldn't help but be incredibly humbled. It only got more humbling when I received a phone call from him one day. He told me that God had spoken to him about doing a DTS. Not just a DTS, but one at YWAM Perth, where I live. I was in awe, complete awe. God had spoken to me in 2013, when my brother wasn't even a Christian, and there I stood, two years later, eagerly awaiting the arrival of my brother to come do a DTS.

While Josh did his DTS, God did incredible things in our relationship. God dealt with the hurt, the broken trust, the cracked foundations, and began to build us together. God brought me rest during this time. I felt like I carried a sense of responsibility (being the spiritual older brother) before this, but I finally felt God releasing me of that role. I could return to being the younger brother, the role I was created for. It was a time I will always be thankful for.

[God used my time in DTS to do many permanent and complete things in my heart and in my life. The one thing that moves my heart most is the reconciliation with my brother. For the majority of my life, we were not close. I longed to be an older brother that he could trust and depend on. I want to be a brother that helped him with problems and gave good and relevant advice. The first time I heard the Lord, He told me to walk across the room and go speak to my brother at church camp. Years later, God wanted me to do the same thing, but this time He brought me to Australia. We spent hours talking, laughing, repenting, and forgiving. God came in and rebuilt trust, tore down lies, and He restored my identity as an older brother. God cares so much about family, and He cares about our born identities. I was born as the older brother, that is who I am. God was always dedicated to my position as such.]

As for now, we're dedicated to being brothers.

Brothers that support.

Brothers that sharpen one another.

Brothers that stand in the gap.

Brothers that encourage.

Brothers that share joy.

But most importantly, brothers that embody a story of God's redemption.