Monday, May 3, 2010

A brother far off


Lucas lost his younger brother Jake to cancer when Jake was only 17. At the time, Lucas blamed God. He turned his back on the Christian faith. For 11 years he was an angry, bitter backslider. His grief was inconsolable. His rage was uncontrollable.

It took ten years just to work through his anger. For years he could barely speak about his brother’s death.

At 30, he returned to the faith. He continued to mourn the loss of his brother. But if there was no God, then his brother’s death meant nothing. If there was no God, then there was no hope of seeing his bother again.

Yet there was always a part of him which blamed God. At this point he knew it was wrong to blame God, but he couldn’t get over a feeling of resentment. The months he spent watching his brother waste away. The empty, silent years ahead. Every day he regretted the lost opportunities. That he’d never see his brother again. Not here, not now.

He knew that God had a good reason. But he didn’t know the reason.

As time passed he achieved a measure of healing with his wife and kids. But it only took some little thing, like a snatch of music from the past, to awaken all the old memories and emotions–and he was momentarily engulfed in grief. Deep down, there was a maggot of bitterness, chewing his insides.


When Lucas died, his brother was waiting for him in heaven. The last time he saw his brother alive, Jake was just a shell–his body hollowed by cancer. Now he saw his brother the way he remembered him–before the cancer consumed him. Well, maybe a bit more mature.

They talked and talked. He told Jake how much he missed him. He always wondered why God took him so soon. Jake said it was for both their good.

“Come, let me show you,” Jake said.

“Show me what?” Lucas replied.

“Another world. The world in which I never died of cancer.”

A moment later they were standing in a world almost indistinguishable from the one they left behind.

“I don’t understand,” Jake said.

“Heaven is like a terminal between different worlds,” Lucas explained. “That’s not all it is. Heaven wonderful in its own right. Beyond description. But it’s also a place to other places.”

“You mean, like alternate worlds?” Lucas asked.

“That’s right. Like those science fiction movies we used to go see as kids. The parallel universe where you have a double with an alternate history. This is the alternate timeline where I never had cancer,” Jake answered.

“You mean this is real?” Lucas asked.

“Depends on what you mean. What is real depends on which world you’re in at the time. Whatever world you’re in is real to you. Other worlds are unreal to you in relation to the world you’re in,” Jake answered.

“You mean every possible world is real?” Lucas asked.

“No. God leaves some possible worlds unrealized,” Jake answered. “Let me take you to my home. There I am, with Alice and our little kids.”

“I always figured that you and she would get hitched,” Lucas said.

“We married right out high school. But it didn’t last,” Jake said.

“Why not?” Lucas asked.

“I had an affair. I left her for another woman,” Jake answered.

His brother was shocked.

“And one thing led to another. When I left my wife and kids, I stopped going to church. I put the faith behind me. As long as I was a Christian, I couldn’t excuse my adultery, so I chose my mistress over my God,” Jake continued.

Lucas was speechless.

“You were very disillusioned,” Jake said. “It put a tremendous strain on our relationship. We drifted apart. Rarely saw each other. Rarely spoke to one another. Led separate lives.”

Lucas nodded.

“Let’s go somewhere else,” Jake said.

The scene changed. “This is me in hell. After I died. Not when I died of cancer. Not in that world. But in the other world I showed you. When I died of old age.”

“So that’s why God took you,” Lucas said. “Like Paul says in Philemon: you lost him for a while–to have him back for good.”