For many years there has been a phrase I have heard over and over, “Are you and your brother twins?” This phrase, or variations of it, are quite common place for me, seeing as my brother and I have a vague resemblance (see the photographs below).
So to be clear, while J.J. (my older brother) and I are close in age and relationship, we are not twins.
My brother is a super cool guy, and I am glad he is my older brother. Growing up, he was always a lot more well known than I was. I didn't mind sometimes, because once I hit my pre-teens, I was a pretty shy guy (though that may surprise some people who know me today). At the time though, simply being known as “that guy who looks like J.J.” did start to bother me. I remember being at a church youth group when we were splitting up into study groups. One group called out, “We get J.J.!” and another disappointingly called back, “Okay I guess we get little J.J.”
These kinds of phrases didn't need to hurt me, but I let them bug me. I resented being thought of as “J.J.: The Sequel.”
As time went on however, I resolved myself to not let it bother me when people mistook me for J.J., after all, J.J. Is a cool guy and everyone who thinks I am J.J. Is happy to see me...or... to see him really.
Later on in life however there was another reason that the phrase, “are you guys twins?” started to bother me. See very few people outside my family know this, but I am a twin. Or was.
When early ultra sounds were taken, I had a room mate in my mother's womb. I was one half of a set of twins. However as time went on, it seems that my room mate got a head start on Heaven and left me to check out this crazy world without him or her. Being reminded of that whenever someone said, “are you guys twins?” became very awkward at one point in my life. But the people asking if JJ. & I were twins, didn't know that. And it wasn't something I wished to discuss with them. So it hurt. Fortunately I have always had an extremely tight knit family, so I never truly felt an intense sense of loss or that I was only “half of myself”, but I did go through a period of mixed emotions on the subject.
I think it's important that we be mindful of each other, and try and tread lightly around phrases that seem to make certain people uncomfortable; within reason of course. It would have been only a small thing when people asked me if we were twins, but it was a whole other deal when they repeatedly made statements like, “they look so much alike!” on multiple occasions.
It would remind me that there was another human being I was with before I ever entered this world. That the first family member I ever met didn't get to come with me into this crazy mixed up world.
My Dad once pointed out that I can be grateful for my brother J.J. being here, because the closeness that I can have with my brother, can fill some of the void that I would have otherwise felt in the absence of my twin. And he was spot on with that.
But, it would also bring up feelings and thoughts like, “Yes, yes you were a twin Christopher, but you are the one who lived.” It made me wonder why? Why did God choose me to live, while my twin brother or sister did not? Of course the more I think about it, the more I realize he or she is in a much better place, a place he or she can show me around and tell me all about when one day join him or her, and other believers in Christ, in Heaven. Think about that! Not only will Jesus, the lover of my soul, be waiting for me in Heaven, but the very first human being I ever met in this realm, will be waiting for me too! It's really exciting knowing I'll have my own Heaven-buddy/tour guide :)
Being reminded of him or her doesn't often bother me anymore. Because he or she is my brother or sister, as dear as any of my other siblings who lives and breathes on Earth today. But there is another reason this phrase bothers me on occasion...
See when people tell me that J.J. And I look like twins, I have often tended to judge them, thinking, “Well you seem to be a person who only looks at the surface of people.” Which I suppose would be me making an equally surfacey judgment. If you were to ask my parents or sisters, or my closest friends, if J.J. and I look like identical twins, they would tell you that while we do look alike, to think that we are twins would be to only give us a quick glance, and not to truly know us.
Words are words, but words can hurt, and they can encourage. They shouldn't define anyone's view of themselves or the world, and I admit I have let them mean far more than they should in my own life, but words can be hurtful.
Sometimes the pain felt from words, has less to do with the words, and more to do with people's personal associations with those words. Associations that maybe no one else knows about. Of course it is not your responsibility to over think and worry about how people could take your every last word. If you worried about how everything could be taken, you would never say anything at all. But I do think it's wise to always keep “one ear cocked to Heaven” and to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance, to be sure that you don't needlessly offend someone with a stray comment. After all, God knows the hearts and thoughts of everyone, even if you don't, and He can guide you around the land mines that you can't see, as long as you're in tune with Him.
I love my brother J.J. and am glad we look similarly. It gives us a bond, and helps me meet his friends without his knowing ha ha! I even got a free pizza out of it once.
And if you asked J.J. if he is glad we look alike, I am sure he would say, “I am glad I look like Christopher, because that makes me charming and handsome just like him!” :P
Love ya J.J.! Thanks for being there for me and helping to fill your part of my void, and thanks for putting up with all my crazy moods, both the entertaining silly ones, and the scary ones!
I love you too my twin, can't wait to see you again! Keep preparing your tour of Heaven for me! :)