Your Family’s Black Sheep

I wonder if every family has a black sheep.  Definitions can clarify things so I looked up Black Sheep in the Urban Dictionary and found, “term used to describe someone who feels left out in a family. Basically, the outcast of the family because they choose to do other things than live up to their parents’ standards.”  I think this is a start to defining what a black sheep is, but when you have one in your family, that definition doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the memories you carry inside of you.

Again, I wonder if every family has one. I look across the landscape of people I know and more families have one than not. My best friend has a heroin addicted brother, my other friend’s sister is an alcoholic/career exotic dancer, and I also know of a mom who struggles with her practicing homosexual teenager. The stories are numerous and the devastation rages on.

My black sheep is my older brother.  Ah, Jeremy. What can I say about him? Jeremy and I used to interact as children, and sometimes even laugh together.  He is five years my senior so we weren’t exactly toddler buddies.  I have some sparse good time memories of him but as far as I can remember he was always rebellious.  From shoving lit cigarettes in the mouth of my Cabbage Patch Dolls, to a drawer full of porn magazines, to spitting on the carpet when the parents weren’t home, my brother would many times be the one to expose me to evil.

Jeremy seemed to give up in the earlier stages of his life by running to vices such as drinking alcohol and smoking meth.  He is now a man in his early forties and it is by God’s divine intervention he is alive today. Jeremy has been living on the streets of Las Vegas Nevada and in and out of homelessness for the better part of twenty years. But I don’t care. I love him and have chosen to forgive the things he has done to me.

unnamed (1)I snapped this picture of Jeremy and I last Christmas because I never know when he will walk into eternity. He has already overdosed, been stabbed in the lung, involved in many fights, and God only knows what else. Through these twenty years I haven’t ignored my brother. My family would sometimes visit him in the tunnel he frequented to bring him food, contacts, and just the assurance that he is still loved despite his behavior.

This has been going on for so long with my black sheep that this lifestyle has become his normal. But sometimes, I do cry out to God. I ask him to spare Jeremy’s life a little longer. I plead with the Holy Spirit to change him and crown him with salvation and righteousness.  I have to admit it can feel so hopeless. But in a series of two dreams the Lord made me aware that he was hearing my prayers! In the first dream I was facing my brother and holding his two hands.  I was trying to look in his eyes and I was telling him it was time to come out of this lifestyle and that God loved him.  At first my brother would not look in my eyes and I literally felt Satan’s presence overtaking his body and mind.  Then all of a sudden my brother Jeremy looked me directly in the eye and he was full of shame and despair. He spoke and said, “I have lived my life like this for too long now. I can’t come out of it, God can’t do anything with me.”  When I woke it was clear that Satan had him bound up in condemnation, telling him that God could not do anything with him anymore. It was too late.

In the second dream my brother was back in high school. The dream took me through all the rejection he experienced from his peers and others in his life.  I woke up in tears and realized that not only had he believed he was condemned, he also believed his human existence has always been entirely rejected.

Condemnation and rejection are faulty beliefs in peoples lives that will keep them on a path of destruction.  But what is the solution? What do we do with the black sheep in our families? Discernment, prayer, and trust.

Discernment – Discernment is our interactions with our black sheep being led by the Holy Spirit and not us. It can only be obtained by time in our prayer closets with the Word of God open before us.  Discernment will let us know when our efforts to help in the life of our black sheep is crossing over into enabling behavior on our part.  Discernment will show us healthy boundaries when the destructive behavior comes our way.  It will teach us how to truly love our black sheep with gentle words and acts of tender mercies.  When our interactions with them become spirit-led we can be confident that we are doing all we can for their good.

Prayer- Prayer is where we connect with our source of all that is. How do we expect to have any peace in our lives as a loved one is walking toward death and destruction? We shouldn’t expect any peace unless we can take our pain and requests to the very throne room of the one who created our black sheep. While we pour out our requests it is imperative that we leave our worries and worst case scenarios in our prayer closets. Prayer is our outlet where we can take our anger, fears, and multitude of tears.  If we take these emotions outside of prayer we allow these damaging things to spill out onto our relationships with others.  This will allow the behavior of our black sheep to infect more lives than it needs to. Let God carry the emotional load.  He is big enough.

Trust- Trusting God allows God to truly be God and places us in a place of humility as created beings.  Releasing our black sheep to God in certain situations could be misinterpreted by some, or even ourselves as indifference because we aren’t always doing something. But it’s really submission to what is more powerful than us.  If we do not trust God we could ignore the Holy Spirit discernment that we obtain in our prayer closets. We could control, we could enable, but worst of all we could believe that we know better than God.

I do not know the final outcome in the life of my brother. Outcomes are not up to me.  I do not know what Jeremy’s purpose on this earth is.  His purpose is not to be controlled by me.  But I do know God is purposeful in all he does. God can be trusted regardless of the outcome.  I do not have the vantage point of past, present, and future like the creator does in the lives of others. But I do believe I now have a grasp on my responsibilities and my boundaries in the life of my beloved black sheep.

Glory to God alone.