I have a sister who dislikes us. In fact, that is probably not the word she would use. She would probably say, "I hate them." The "them" is us - her siblings, her family. I guess I should explain why.
It began when she was born. I was so excited to have a baby sister 8 years younger, that I brought my entire class home with me the day my mother arrived back from the hospital. I was ecstatic. I'd like to say that my exhausted mom was also ecstatic - when 25 1st graders traipsed through her bedroom to see 'the baby' - but this is not a fictional tale.
My sister was 7 years younger than the last of the original 4 kid pack - let's just say that she was not neglected. For fun, we would all lie down in a row and she would walk on top of us, giggling. Perhaps we should have seen where this was going.
I spent my childhood, from 8 on, caring for my sister. We shared a room, and everywhere I went - she went too. She was the light of my (painfully shy) life, and it brightened my days. When I went off to college, I sent her flowers each year on her first day of school so that she would not feel alone. When home on vacation, I acted as the assistant coach of her softball teams. I ran her to lessons, stood up to mean coaches and teachers, helped her fight her teenage battles.
Fast forward several years and I found myself a young Navy wife far from home in California. My sister was now in college, having, it appeared, too good of a time. She developed a cocaine problem. My parents shipped her across country to me. Clueless as to what to do, I spent a long couple weeks holed up in my house caring for her and my newborn baby; while she went through detox. She was furious at me because I kept insisting she could get better; because I refused to just let her give up. Some time later, she finally traveled back home - ready to begin again.
The next few years were exciting ones for her; she fell in love, married and began a family. When she needed a helping hand - her siblings and/or parents were there for her. Her oldest sister took her under her wing, showing her how to care for children, how to set up a home. These things don't come easily - they need nurturing. Her father and brothers lent their back on way too many occasions helping her and her family move from place to place. Her mother became her best 'shopping buddy'.
After we moved back home and I opened my law office, I went out on a limb to try to get her the farm she always wanted. A developer wanted it too, but this was, after all, the farm my sister had always dreamed of having. The whole family came out to help her clear the fields, put up the fences, fix up the house. The future was bright.
But then the animals kept on coming, and her husband could only work so many hours a week (about 80?) to pay for them all. Who knew she had an addiction to animals? The more pitiful, the more she loved them. The vet bills grew, along with the dangers from wild horses; obtained because no one else wanted them. There were the frequent hospital trips - for her and the children. Before long, she was on some pretty strong pain killers for the countless injuries she had gotten from the animals. Nonetheless, against our advice, against doctors' advice, against everyone's advice - the animals continued coming. Soon, she began calling me for money. First it was the taxes, then it was the mortgage. There was always a reason. Slowly I began to realize that she did not have a money problem - she had a spending problem. And I was not helping her deal with either of them.
And so I began telling her the truth.
I was, therefore, the first one in our family that she grew to 'hate'.
Fast forward a few more years and slowly, one by one, we all have fallen out of favor with our sister. The animal addiction led to drug addiction, which led to criminal actions, which led to arrests, which led - eventually - to jail. All throughout, it has been her family she has turned to for help. Her siblings are several thousands of dollars in the hole from posting bail money she never repaid. And her parents? Their retirement savings accounts are all gone - stolen by the child they loved the most. Now in their elder years - and needing money for their own care - they are hard pressed to come up with it.
And yet. Yet we continue to hope, we continue to tell her we care, we continue to love her - to want her well. She continues to tell everyone else how horrid we are; how hateful we are; how selfish we are. And, of course, how we've "never done anything" for her... Mostly, of course, she just ignores us - she goes off for days, weeks, maybe months at a time - and we have no idea where or how she is. We just know - that as long as she remains in this lifestyle - she is not well.
But isn't this us? Isn't it my story too? Isn't it all of ours?
And, in fact, are we not a million times worse? The answer, of course, would be yes. Because, you see, this is how we treat God. My sister, at least, has an excuse. I am human, and so I have let her down many, many, many times. My own sin has too often entered in where God's love should have; and hence, she is rightly angered at my failures. She is justified in her hatred.
But what about God?
I was reading Isaiah today where the Lord lists His litany of complaints against His people. He has given them life, He has given them health, He has given them blessings, He has given them.... the list goes on and on. And then He points out how they have responded. They have turned from Him, they have slandered His name, they have sinned with abandon, they have.... hated Him.
Has anything changed since Isaiah's day? God surely has not. In fact, has He ever done wrong to me personally, to any of us? And yet we avoid Him, we neglect Him, we even accuse Him of not caring.
I wake up these days, and I look at the temperature first thing. It's cold out there. Is my sister on the street? When I drive home, I watch my wipers clear cold dreary rain off my windshield. Is she warm? Is she dry? Is she safe? The daylight fades and the darkness envelops my world while I anxiously worry - is she inside? Is that man she was last seen with still beating her? Is she all alone?
And worst of all - Does she think no one loves her? Does she think no one cares? Does her heart, deep inside, just want to go home and no longer know how?
My sister hates us, me most specifically according to those who know, and yet... And yet each morning my first thoughts are about her well being. My last words are a prayer of protection for her for yet another day. I plead with God on a continual basis - keep her safe, keep her close to You, lead her home. No matter what she has done - I have never stopped loving, my heart has never stopped breaking.
Do I love more than God loves? Does His heart break less than mine? I don't think so.
My sister at least is honest. She is pointing out the hypocrisy, the sin, in my own heart - the sin in all of ours. God loves, and we hate. God beckons, and we ignore. God instructs, and we ridicule.
God loves, and we hate.
May He have mercy on my sister - May He have mercy on us.
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to hope in Love.