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Last summer, my family spent practically all of our time together. This summer, we had a lot of fun too, but something was missing — my brother Cole.
He was busy taking summer college courses–though that’s not the only thing that kept him from us. He also has what he calls a second family.
When my brother returned home from his first weeks at college last September, I was excited to hear all about how it was going. Dorm life, cafeteria food, and frat parties. Instead, when my family sat down at the table to eat, Cole closed his eyes, clasped his hands, and silently mouthed grace.
My jaw dropped in shock.
Atheism is all we’d ever known. But the first friends Cole made on campus belonged to a Southern Baptist church group. Not long after, he converted.
My parents are trying to understand. They read those books about spirituality and even went to Easter church services. It’s been harder for me to accept.
Early on, I asked Cole, “Do you think that when I die, I’ll go to Hell?”
I expected him to say, “Of course not! You’re a good person.” But without pausing, he told me that if I didn’t repent for my sins, then yeah, I would.
I wanted to scream that I’m his sister. Regardless of the Bible’s rules, he knows I’m a good person. I guess he has more faith in God than he has in me.
I also have to own that I’ve made some very mortal mistakes on the road to acceptance. I fought with my brother a lot about his beliefs. I even laughed at him when he tried to explain them. Would a good person laugh at their own brother for something he cares about?
I want to hold onto the Cole of my childhood, the one who climbed trees and loved making stupid puns with me. In some ways, we’re not those people anymore. We’re both changing so much.
The thing I’ve learned through this, is that I can’t choose to focus on our differences.
Yes, he’s Cole the Southern Baptist, but he’s also Cole — my funny, smart best friend.