The month is quickly coming to a close, and I have to say… it’s been real weird guys. I have uncharacteristically had to rely on others this month. I have said no to things I would generally say yes to, and I have said yes to things I would typically deprive myself of. It’s been a little disorienting, but also really freeing, growing and challenging.
The other strange thing about #AdamsActs this year is that I feel like I have shared a lot less about my brother. The reality of tragic and unexpected death is that there are no new memories. The stories and experiences that I had with Adam are finite. I do not get to make new memories with my big brother. I will never see him wrestle with my kids when they’re supposed to be getting ready for bed. I will never see him fall in love, have a wedding and maybe children. I won’t get to celebrate his big promotion at work, or make him do one of those really muddy 5k things with me. There is simply no more time with him.
For a lot of years, I held my memories so close to me, unwilling to share what little I had of him with anyone else. Eventually, I allowed myself to put these memories out into the world, and something unimaginable happened. As I began to open my hand and release these pieces of Adam that I had held so tightly, I started getting new pieces of him back. As I wrote about my memories of Adam, others started sharing their memories of him with me. It was as if God whispered right to my heart, “There is more than you know. If you just let go, I will show you.”
Every year since then, I have gotten to know new sides of my brother - attributes and actions that I would never have known about had I not been willing to let go. I learned that a shy girl once had a crush on my brother and she really wanted to dance with him at the school dance. He was dancing with some friends but when she left, disappointed, he went after her into the hallway and there he asked that shy girl to dance. Just the two of them, alone in the hallways slow dancing without any music.
I learned that he intervened when some big, punk kid was picking on a little nerd, my scrawny brother put the bully in a complicated wrestling hold and held him there until an adult arrived. I learned that he spoke up about racial inequity. We lived in white suburbia. IN THE 90’s. And Adam was speaking out about racism? Long before being woke was a thing, my big brother was WOKE. My brother was an advocate for marginalized people. I would not have known this if I hadn’t let go.
This year, I was given the gift of discovering yet another impressive layer to my brother. I will not share all of the details, as they are not mine to tell. Suffice it to say that as a young girl was in a precarious situation where she was unable to protect herself and was vulnerable to an assault, Adam served as her protector. The phrase that stood out to me was this:
“As the vultures were circling, Adam didn’t leave her side.”
I learned this about my brother in the middle of the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing, at the height of the #MeToo movement, when thousands of women were finally choosing to break the silence about their own experiences with rape, abuse and sexual assault.
To me, Adam was just my big brother and my own personal super hero. I knew he would protect me if he could. I knew that he was the second best wrestler in his weight class in the state of Michigan, he was a brilliant mind, an excellent athlete, a bit of a comedian and a leader. I didn’t want to let go of that image of him.
I didn’t want to share those pieces with anyone because part of me felt that it might weaken or cheapen the power of those memories. Releasing that singular perspective of Adam has, on the contrary, allowed me to know who he was in a much fuller way. Now I know him to be all of those things, and also a warrior for social justice, an advocate for women, a protector of the vulnerable.
During a week in which we are being inundated with news stories of hate and violence in our country, I am choosing to, once again, let go. I will not hold so tightly to these memories. I choose to release them and share them with you in hopes that it serves as a reminder that there are good boys out there. Boys who are being raised to love their neighbor - REGARDLESS of who that neighbor is. There are boys and girls in this country who are fearlessly standing in the gap for the sake of defending vulnerable and marginalized people groups. There are people who will see racial and socioeconomic disparity and will refuse to look the other way. There are Christians in our country who take God’s command to love others seriously. They care for the poor, the sick, the oppressed. Some of us even care regardless of your race, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation. Some of us just plain love our neighbors no matter what, because God told us to.
Letting go of my childish image of Adam has allowed me to gain a picture of the man he was becoming. I believe that he was going to be the kind of man who understood that Jesus gave two primary commands - to love him, and to love others. The more I become acquainted with how my brother operated in the world, the more convinced I am that he understood the true essence of the gospel and the command to love.
For the next two days of October, I want to challenge all of us to be intentional about overtly loving one another. I don’t really care who your neighbors are, just love them. For ten years I lived across the street from an old man who often told me to get an abortion when I was pregnant and more disturbingly, also Disney-frenched me on the mouth once. It was real old and gross guys, but I loved him anyways! I don’t care who your colleagues are, who your in-laws are, who your neighbor plans to vote for in a few days… just love the junk out of them. Love them regardless of their lifestyle choices.
If God didn’t add any qualifying statements to loving others, then why should we?