Toward the end of January, a debate took place inside my head; should I go see my sister or not?
When I heard my sister was going to be a state away, because she was receiving an award, a crazy idea popped into my head: I should surprise her by driving down to see her and congratulate her in person! But then I thought of what it would cost me. I thought of the price of a hotel, the price of gas, and giving up other things that I would do on a Saturday, but I neglected to count the real cost. The real cost was not seeing my sister for another six years. The real cost was not having the chance to tell her I love her and to show her the truth of that statement in person.
I set my house in order on the morning of January 23rd, and headed out on the road. (What I did not know at the time of my departure was the sad significance of that day; it marks the anniversary of deaths in my family; my Grandma’s death in 2003, my Great Uncle’s death in 2007, and my Great Aunt’s death in 2014… Of all the days that event could have been held… My sister was probably as ignorant as I to the significance of that day; death is not something anyone likes to remember, especially when life awaits.)
The sky was overcast and the morning was cold and dreary, but the closer I got to my destination, the more the clouds pulled away to reveal the sun and the blue sky above. I considered that drive a step of faith, and I considered the growing light a blessing of that step. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. All the way there, I was praying that the reunion with my sister would be sweet. I knew I would be smiling, I would also probably cry, and I prayed that it would be the same for my sister; that her love for me would match my love for her.
The time came when I saw her from a distance. I had not seen her in person for about six years! So, you could say that I was a little excited. I saw her excitement at the step she was taking and I was excited and overjoyed for her, but she didn’t see me in that sea of faces, and I decided it was better to wait before I surprised her.
Eventually, the crowd thinned. My sister started walking toward me, but still did not see me. I took a step forward and called her name, she turned her head to look at me as her brow furrowed a little…
You didn’t know I was coming. You were caught unaware. I was praying for a joyous reunion, and for mirrored tears. The actual answer, I didn’t expect; I had been looking at the world through a rose-colored lens. When I called out your name, you looked shocked, and no smile met mine. Your lips stayed at an even keel as you asked, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I came here to see you,” and as I spoke, I moved forward and gave you a hug. But when I hugged you, you did not respond; your eyes looked distant and you expressed that your husband would not be glad. You were in a hurry to sit and be honored, but I wanted you to see how far I had come, that no expanse was too great. I didn’t care the price I paid, I just wanted to see your face and show you love. I thought it would be easier for you to deny love on paper and over the phone, and not when you saw it face to face… But I guess I was wrong.
In that place full of people, you made me feel like just another face, as though I were a stranger. If I were a stranger, then I could have introduced myself to you and your husband. I would have been allowed to shake his hand. You would have smiled and said, “It’s nice to meet you.” You may have asked where I was from and maybe where I went to school and/or where I work. If you and your husband had treated me like a stranger, a new acquaintance, then you would have shown me love, then you would have been my neighbor, then you would have been my sister.
I prayed for a sweet reunion, full of hugs, smiles, laughter, tears, and love, but that prayer went unanswered. Perhaps it was because I did not see my sister at all. I certainly did not feel her touch or hear her voice. The face was the same, but the eyes were different. They looked straight through me and held no emotion. Those eyes were a wall built up without a reason, a wall that could not be touched by love and could neither reflect nor receive it. I was hoping to find my sister alive and well, but I found a heart grown cold and bitter toward the undeserving. And even a man I had never met had a heart that matched hers, fed by the same bitter fruit.
Posting Dear Sister, hugging you, crying for you, driving to see you, or telling you that I love you, were not reasons for you to treat me with contempt. Mom and dad also did nothing to earn your contempt; they held you, cried for you, ache even now for you, and have told you they love you in written word and spoken word. Dad coached you and encouraged you into the sport that you love, and both mom and dad gave of their time and resources to make sure you had success in life and spirit. But I suppose that is the way of the world; love is often thrown in the face of those who give it. Love is often not recognized and trampled on the ground. Love is often forgotten, though love never forgets.
You once tried to convince me of the righteousness of your side, but by their fruits, you shall know them, and I saw no fruits of what is right (Matthew 7). I pray that the way you acted and responded was a momentary lapse and that your contempt and apparent hatred is not deep-rooted and immovable, though that was not the first time you turned your back on love. When mom hugged you last year, you barely acknowledged her and swiftly left, even when you did not have your husband as an excuse.
In His ministry, Jesus equated hatred with murder, and if not for my still beating heart and the Holy Spirit of Christ within me, I would think myself dead. But I am not the one who is dead inside. From the fruits that I saw displayed by you and your husband, in those moments of you turning your back to me and not your face, I saw death; not death in flesh, but in spirit, which is far worse. You have told me that you follow Christ and have grown so much in Him, but I did not see it. Faith is an empty word without actions. If you want to make your faith known, then stop backbiting, slandering, and murmuring against those who love you. It brings sorrow to my heart and to our parents’ hearts to hear the things you say about them, that they would wish you dead and you fear for your life… You have believed a lie and caused others to believe the same. You have closed your eyes, covered your ears, and denied your senses. You have become blind and numb to love. And that was proven to me when you did not even respond when I hugged you. It is not that you are not (or were never) loved, but that you refuse to recognize love and turn your back to it.
When I waited for you and sought to spend time with you and your husband, I was met with a harsh indifference; a cruel hatred. I am your sister in blood, and you profess that we have the same heavenly Father. Our Father desires for us to live in unity, to love one another, because that is how He wants the world to know us: by our love. When I expressed this truth to you and your husband, you said nothing, but your husband said love would not happen while he lived, to which I replied, “That is not what Jesus wants.” In effect, your husband declared that your fight is not against me or your family, but against God… And that is a terrifying thought. Your husband also said, “Why would you ruin this day for us?” The only reply I could think to give at the time was, “Love ruins nothing.” I must apologize now, because that was a lie. Love ruins everything; everything that does not matter. Love ruins loneliness, cruel walls, buried pain, rooted bitterness, terrible hatred, and hidden sin; love never fails. Love suffers long, is kind, does not envy, is not proud, does not behave dishonorably, does not seek her own, is not easily angered, thinks no evil, rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Corinthians 13).
My love for you is not as deep as Christ’s love for you; my blood was not shed on your behalf and I did not take beatings at you or your husband’s hands and then forgive you. But after seeing you and having my love scorned, I have a more intimate understanding of God’s love for His children and those who have not yet called upon His name; I have a deeper understanding of His pain. I thought myself separate from the conflict; I just wanted to get my sister back. But as I stood before the ones who should have been my sister and brother, I received hatred without a cause, and my love and brokenness were denied and ignored. (John 15:25, Isaiah 53) I am not Jesus, but I am His daughter, His representative. How can you say that you love Jesus, yet hate or disdain His children? How can you fully know the love of your Savior when you hold a parallel hatred to those who crucified Him?
Until the day when hatred is traded in for love, I rest in Jesus, knowing that He has given me countless brothers and sisters after His own heart in this life and I will also see them in eternity. Though my dream of catching up with you, telling you about my life, my daily hopes and dreams, and hearing about your life and your daily hopes and dreams, died with a goodbye and the slamming of a car door in reply to, “I love you,” yet I still trust the One Who can do wonders. He can reveal to you the price of hatred, without you having to pay. I do not wish for painful sorrow and loss to bring you to repentance, because whatever sorrow you suffer, I know I would feel it, too. My heart would break for you. But neither I, nor any of your direct family, can be guilty of what judgment comes, because we have told you the truth. (Ezekiel 3:18-21) We have brought you the Word of God, and you have not responded. By the grace of God, may you turn from your way, walk in righteousness, and repent. And if mom and dad would see you coming up the front steps of our home, they would fall to their knees, weeping and praising God for their daughter who has been brought back to life.
I realize full well that you feel hurt by things you feel dad and/or mom have said, but never, even once, have they hated you or wished you dead. In none of their actions and none of their words face to face or on paper, have I heard or seen anything remotely close to such dark thoughts and actions, but I unfortunately have seen roots of that in you and your husband. The first steps to destruction are hatred, and hatred is murder in the sight of God, so please, humble yourself in the sight of the Lord; forgive, seek forgiveness, and repent.
Some of our mutual friends shared my first birthday letter with you. If you had read it, then surely you would have received me differently. If you had read the letters sent to you from mom and dad, then surely you would never say that they want you dead. In one of dad’s letters to you, he wrote about how the wisdom of the world would have called for you to be aborted, since mom had received abdominal X-rays before she knew she was pregnant, but they chose to follow Christ and give you life. He also described in his letters your defiant behavior from the time that you were a baby into your teen years. Yet, even though he saw your defiance, he chose to love you, coach you, and give his time, effort, and money for your benefit. But there is something dad did not include in any of his letters to you.
Once, you had a really bad head injury. I don’t know what it was from, but it was so bad that you had to stay in a hospital. You were vomiting up everything and couldn’t find any rest or peace, but when you lay your head on dad’s chest, you could finally rest. That moment and memory is the sweetest one that dad has of you and him. He also told me about the great talks you two would have during the car rides to college, but he said, “The car rides always ended.” When you were no longer at rock bottom or felt weak, and you were no longer uncomfortable in a new place, you cast dad and all of us off as though we were nothing more than a useful step ladder that could be kicked to the side. By your actions, you stated that we were no longer needed or wanted. By your words, you stated that dad was no longer needed or wanted. One of our cousins said that you missed your family and wanted fellowship with us, but that desire is clearly gone. If you can only love me and your family if we rebel against the earthly father that God has given us, then I can speak for my family when I say: I ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29) Jesus has called me to love and respect my parents. He calls for all of His followers to live in unity and to love one another. I show my obedience by submitting to dad and also opening my arms to you and your husband. I follow Jesus’ command to love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34), and I pray that both you and your husband will join me one day.
I also pray that God would challenge you this year; that you would weep for love of your family as mom weeps and mourns for you; that you would be humble and mature enough to read these words and repent of your hatred. In all things, may God be glorified. Amen.
Happy Birthday, dear sister. I hope to see you someday with a smile on your face and tears in your eyes; a match to the face looking back at you.