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Pat is my older sister. I am the middle one. Growing up, my younger sister Debbie and I soon learned that as long as we obeyed Pat explicitly, we were allowed to share space in the same house with her. I think Pat would have been content as an only child. In my perception Pat’s energies were devoted to being recognized, being praised, and receiving attention for herself. That left little room in her life for her two sisters.
I don’t remember much of my eldest sister in our childhood except her bossing us, fighting with us and even throwing apple cores across the room at us. In my opinion, she was awful to live with.
It was not until our teen years that Pat became a real part of my life but not in a pleasant way. Most of the memories I have in my teen years are painful and hurtful. I share these things because I want to show you the grace of God in our family life.
I remember an incident that was a turning point for me. I was about 14 years old and Pat was 16. I considered Pat very self-centred and very selfish. We were walking to high school; as usual, Pat was talking and I was listening. She was sharing about something that happened to her that day and I thought something similar had happened to me. So I broke into the conversation. I shared with her what I had experienced. To me it was as if she had not even heard me. After I had finished talking, there was a pause and then she picked up where she had left off. I was already convinced that Pat thought only of herself and this reinforced it. I decided that day I would never share or reveal myself to her again. I closed myself and withdrew myself completely from her.
The teen years were horrendous for Pat. She dropped out of school at 16. I watched her get involved in same-sex relationships and declare she was a lesbian. I watched her be used by people. I watched her get into all kinds of trouble. I watched her bring pain, sorrow, and suffering into our home. I watched her ruin our family in many ways. As far as I was concerned, I would have been glad if we could have closed the door and disowned her. I grew to hate her so much I could not even be in the same room with her.
Pat wasn’t at home much when Debbie and I were in our later teen years, but she created such havoc in our lives that most of my parent’s attention and energies went to her. Again, Debbie and I struggled with how we fit into the family. We would not go to my mom with our problems. Instead we spent many hours listening to our mom pour out her heart in anguish over the things that Pat was doing. This reinforced the deep hatred and resentment I had in my heart towards Pat.
I remember saying to my dad, "Just get rid of her. Don’t help her anymore. We don’t need her”.
My dad replied, "If we are going to make an error we will err on the side of kindness”. Well I thought, go ahead and make your mistakes but leave me out of it.
You might be wondering where I was at spiritually. You might be thinking that I was a terrible person. On the contrary, I considered myself a very godly person. I was faithful in attending at church. I was involved in ministry at my church. I loved God, and I spent time with God regularly. I read my Bible every day. I believe following the Christian path and God’s grace is what saved me. My dad always said, "No matter how you feel, keep fellowshipping with God and His people, keep reading your Bible, keep attending God’s house. Because God can speak to you through these things.”
This is exactly what happened to me. I was reading one morning my Bible, and I came to these verses.
If anyone boasts, "I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. I John 4 (The Message)
I knew the verses but it was as though God spoke to me audibly. He said to me, "Lynda if you say you love me and hate your sister Pat, you are a liar. For you do not even see Me. You only see Pat. Your heart is filled with hatred for her. I have given you this command. If you say you love me you must also love your sister Pat.” It was as though God had taken his surgical knife and just slit my heart open and revealed to me the puss and filth that was in my heart. I broke down and cried, "I do love you God but I don’t love Pat. God only you can change me”. For months I prayed over these verses asking God to change me and create a love in my heart for my sister. God never lets you down. If anything, my parents have taught me that God works with sinners, and it’s true. I am a sinner and He worked in my heart.
It was amazing to me! Pat wasn’t living at home with us at the time. But little by little God changed me. First he put a concern in my heart for Pat. He showed me how far away she had gotten from God and it was only God’s Spirit that could reveal the truth of His word to her. He showed me I would be in the same place if it weren’t for His grace. He showed me I needed to pray for her.
Little by little He brought her into my life. We worked together at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I didn’t have much to do with her, but I started to care about what was happening to her. Then He took me to work at Ontario Bible College where she was going to school, and I looked forward to seeing and talking with her. When I had my first child, she would drop in and help me with him.
Today Pat is one of my closest friends. She is somebody I respect, admire and choose to imitate. It is amazing to me how good God is and how much he works in our lives and how he reconciles us to Himself and to one another. God can do the impossible. He is an awesome God!