Thursday, January 15, 2009

Isaac's Brother

Heretofore, this blog was updated an average of about once every two months. But I recently saw that my brother Isaac, the pastor of Summit Church, linked us on his Summit blog. Then I realized more people might be looking at it and I might need to start writing more. And then, sure enough, I looked at our stats page and our readership bumped up the day he linked us and has stayed there since.

I can tell it is from Isaac's readers because in the column where it tells you who the referring page was, it is a nearly unbroken line of "Summit Church blog." There is one referring link exception that stands out in the middle and says "Google search: guy with tall and skinny head blog." It would bother me, but Google must really do their research. I came to realize in college that my head had been destined to only grow vertically and was going to keep the shape of a Tic Tac on end. Until then, I had held out hope that my jaw would grow wider so strangers wouldn't tell me I look like Beaker from the muppets (this is true).

For as long as I can remember I was "Isaac's brother" (he says that he was "Josh's brother" before that) to new people I met; partially because of his perfect head shape, I am sure, but even more because he has always had the charisma of a Winston Churchill, or a Barack Obama. Before we even knew why, people were calling him Winstack Churlama. I won't lie, for a long time I thought being known only in relation to my brother was a burden rather than an asset. One time I remember in particular, a pretty girl at a summer camp Isaac and were at smiled at me and said, "you're Isaac's brother, aren't you?" Unused to a girl starting a conversation with me, I involuntarily swallowed and said, "yerp," or something like that. Then she said coldly, "you don't look anything like him," and walked away. And then a bald eagle landed on my head and started trying to make a nest.

A few years later, after Josh went off to college, a strange thing happened and Isaac started inviting me into his circle of friends. All of a sudden, I was in a circle of people which I was in no way cool enough to hang out with. Everybody had some quality, some niche, they brought to the group, like Isaac's charisma and nickname giving ability, John Parker's absolute fearlessness, Andy's leadership of the youth group band, and so on. It was impossible for me to mistake my own inherent coolness with my new social status. For one, and I swear this is true, I tried to make my distinguishing feature a desire for cleanliness. I refused to join in on beach volleyball and I stayed in the boat when they waded in the water and fished. I often bragged about how much I showered.

But still, this new group of friends stuck by me. And I realize now that it was Isaac that did this for me. I gradually began to think of myself as one of the group and relax a little bit. Isaac gave me a new and improved distinguishing feature of being the brainy guy (a step up from shower guy). Andy let me join the church band and I sang. Big John (Isaac's nickname for him that stuck) chose to be dragged behind a truck with a rope for 100 yards on a dirt road for no other reason than to say he did it. (I wasn't involved in that one; not everything was about me.)

I think our circle of friends is hugely important in who we become. We learn to fit our environment; and we either grow and stretch out in ways we didn't think possible, or shrink to fit into low expectations. With a confidence I would not have otherwise had, I went off to med school and became an eye surgeon (which, though not commonly known, is like the Brad-Pitt-in-Fight-Club of medical specialties). Isaac, John and Andy started Summit Church and I go every week to hear Isaac talk about Jesus and to see those people that are still my closest friends. And when I run into someone that I am meeting for the first time, and they say, "you're Isaac's brother aren't you?" I could not be happier to say that I am.

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