A BROTHER IN THE FAMILY - A BROTHER IN THE LORD
It was only two years ago my brother Dennis's 65th birthday.
Dennis was never expected to reach the age of 65, because he had a
combination of cerebral palsy and epilepsy, from birth. He lived in Weston. Weston with all its dangers, breakins and even murders. Yet here he was only two years ago. Celebrating his 65th. Noone had ever beat him up! Noone had robbed him. Of course, there were those in the know, who realised that if they touched Dennis, a thousand friends would descend on them, and they would be lucky if they lived. But God kept Dennis with all his vulnerability in a hundred thousand forays in a dangerous area. Dennis was blessed.
Dennis from his birth had difficulty with speech and with mobility. It was impossible for him to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. Yet on a chain driven trike he developed one of the largest individual door-to-door card (greeting and Christmas) businesses in Canada.
Though our parents were worried about how he would cope with living when they were out of the picture, Dennis has been able to live in his own apartment, pay the rent and take care of his basic requirements. He learned computer skills, which most thought were absolutely impossible for him, with his so very slow search and peck technique. Yet he sent us e-mails, and at times was the main contact for family connection. All of this reflected a work ethic of Proverbs.
After my father passed away my aunt commented that she was delighted at Dennis's continued independence. She stated that a large factor in this independence was my father's biblical wisdom.
She described how Dennis one time came as a child to my father, and
complained that an adult had spoken to him meanly. Evidently my father had instructed him, "Dennis I will stand close by, but I want you to talk to this man and tell him how you feel. If he doesn't respond properly, you let me know." The incident was fully resolved without my father. That advice was following the advice of Christ himself, to talk to, rather than about.
Dennis was a man of many interests and talents given of God. His stamp collection is a museum piece in itself. His computer skills (using laborious "search and peck") were also right up there. He has sent me many digital photos. Sometimes he was the main contact with the Steenhof family. He rented his own apartment from the money he had saved. He helped to keep me aware of classical music, and taught me the virtue of dogged perseverance under trial. My first TC 377 Sony reel to reel was purchased here in Weston at a little store beside the Central Restaurant, with a deal which Dennis obtained for me.
I can't actually recall one time where my parents tried to protect him from leaders, catechism teachers, ministers, insensitive kids at school, or even the elements. In spite of his lack of balance, Dennis was allowed to go outside in winter snowy weather, and yes… he fell many times. I can never forget the occasions he came into the house with an egg shaped bump on his head after slipping on the ice. But he remained an independent and willing-to-give-it-a-go young man. While it must have made my parents anxious at times, it did not cause them to cower or over-protect him. Dennis was encouraged to face all the things that any person has to face and more. Yes mom and dad loved him, and really did so many things for him and with him. But they didn't molly-coddle him. And because of this wisdom he could cope with life. I can only give credit to Christ and His word.
It is a lesson that was not lost on raising my own children. One piece of advice to my children is, "Don't non-tribulate those little
grandchildren." (Yes I am aware it is a double negative.) And don't stand between them and others who actually may have different insights than the family. Wisdom is covenental. It is found in Christ's church - not just in families. In an age where self-love and freedom are proclaimed as the sole virtues, even so-called experts are now beginning to bemoan the tragedy of bubble-wrapped, over-protected children.
Dennis is a tribute to God's exceeding riches available even in this sad world. He often gave me sound Biblical advice.
We live in an age where humanism reigns. Humanism basically tries to purport in theory that what every man and woman believe in their good little human heart is alright or neutral. Therefore according to this mode of thinking, you can't criticise any lifestyle or choice that people make, except when it suits humanists. This is fine until you are confronted with child molesters, those who would engage in crime, the wholesale slaughter of unb orn babies beyond any holocaust that has ever faced the world and those who proclaim that any lifestyle no matter how perverted is ok. Did Dennis believe the human heart was good? Not at all.
Dennis had strong views about murder, theft, unbiblical sexual lifestyles and abortion. He often bemoaned the immoral state of the world, and wished that he could bring all under the umbrella of Christ's law and love. His e-mails on the matter were touching and instructive. When we were living in Toronto from 1988-1993 a few of his brothers spoke of giving Dennis a free gift of accessibility to the internet. Dennis stated, "No, I don't want it, there is pornography on there." What a wonderful response and example
from one who was unable to experience in this life from the privileges of romantic love. In spite of his own limitations from birth which barred him from romance, the Lord gave him a greater concern about the trap of pornography. He only used the computer when convinced that there was a way he could use it righteously.
Certainly that was the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in his life.
And he always wanted to advertise this grace. He knew we belong to the Lord and ought to show it. Providentially Dennis wrote about our choir website last week, and it so showed his heart motives.
It is a wonderful choir your staff put together it is hard work it would be nice if you and your staff can put a cd together as a form of witness that you belong to the Lord please give some thought
And I was able to write back to him, in the middle of class:
Thanks for writing. Is always wonderful to hear from you. I love you my dear brother.
I am pleased that I had a chance to express my love, though I was not aware that this expression was my final goodbye.
The most beautiful thing about this letter was his testimony that he wanted our class to be a witness that we belong to the Lord. He was conscious of God's abounding grace.
What is grace? It is but a free gift.
Why did Dennis need a free gift from God? The same reason that all of us do. We deserve nothing by our own lives which are racked with selfishness.
As we get older, our sin becomes more and more apparent. Do we not know this in our heart of hearts? How selfish and self-inflating we are?
Dennis knew he was a sinner. Dennis had difficult aspects of his
character. He could be impatient, suspicious, stubborn and inconsiderate. There were many battles with sin that Dennis fought and lost.
More so than us under his circumstances? No, no! We all stand with him in sin.
He suffered from some of those habits which sometimes develop when living
alone. But I could only marvel how he showed God's work in him, in spite of the difficulty of his circumstances. And God performed his work in him through the difficulty of his circumstances.
Yet, Dennis, like all of us, was a son of Adam. And how can a son of Adam face God in light of his sin?
Well… Dennis was also a son of Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn't invite those who think they are quite good to his wedding feast. Jesus doesn't invite those who are intellectually above his law into His Kingdom. You don't have to have a smooth tongue or wise tongue to enter into His kingdom.
Jesus invites those who are sinners. Dennis was well aware he was a
sinner saved by grace. God's free gift.
What was God's free gift? "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but hath everlasting life." John 3:16 Dennis always knew that he was a forgiven sinner and only had hope because Jesus offered His life on the cross to pay for his sins.
Dennis responded time and again to Christ's invitation to the wedding feast. Come as a sinner! Dennis has attended that wedding feast many times at the Lord's Supper. Today He is at the wedding feast of the Lamb with many of his loved ones. And we give glory to Christ.