Tuesday, May 1, 2012
(This is a repost of Thursday April 26. I corrected some format problems)
Why do you see the splinter in your sister’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 CJB
What prayers have I prayed that God didn’t answer in a way that I asked Him and yet, the results were better than I could’ve ever asked for?
It would be fair to assume that all of us have asked the Lord, whether in prayer or certainly in desperation, “Lord, change her…Can’t You see that if he behaves better, life will be good. As a matter of fact, Lord, if they change, I will act a lot better than I have been. I promise, my behavior will be much better, because You and I know, that’s why I am acting this way.”
God listens but I can picture Him saying “Oh really?”
That was the type of prayer that I prayed for my sister.
She was 6 years older than me. I so wanted her to love and accept me. I kind of idolized her. She let me hang out with her and her friends, sometimes. Other times, I had a niggling feeling like I was just a pain. I hate to admit it, but it became a love/hate relationship for me.
When she went to Nursing School, I felt proud to be her sister. It is a noble profession.
As I matured, I became aware of something that probably was always there. She often acted like SHE was my mother. She could be bossy and demanding. I resented that. The older she got, the angrier she became. Her dissatisfaction was not only aimed at me, but everyone.
What I didn’t know then, was that angry people often use anger as a defense. They hurt inside, but they lash out and hurt other people. Often, the recipient becomes resentful and wants to retaliate.
My parents developed serious medical issues, late in life. My dad suffered a devastating stroke, which left him paralyzed. My mom also had a stroke. Hers was minor in comparison; but it left her with physical and mental deficits.
The monitoring of their care fell into my sister’s lap. She didn’t sign up for it, but there was an unspoken expectation that she would assume the caretaker role. I mean, she was a nurse and she liked to be in charge, right?
My 3 brothers and I were supposed to relieve her on weekends. However, when we came on our assigned day, she would not leave the house as we had agreed on. On my day, I felt inadequate, as she hovered. I left with a sense that I couldn’t do anything good enough in her sight.
With all this pressure, her anger and resentment grew.
I remember showing up at her home once, with my own built up emotions, and talked back to her. I spewed words towards her that were like a volcano of hate.
From that incident, she wrote me a letter that had about 10 pages. She let me know every little thing that she felt that I had ever done to hurt her. She did not mince words. I was shaken and hurt.
“Lord, I have had it with her! She is impossible and wants perfection.” I am sure I added something like, “I humbly ask You to straighten her out”
I still held onto my self righteousness and what I felt was justifiable anger.
That would change the day the Lord opened my eyes.
Like a movie, a scenario came into my mind. I saw a little girl, maybe around 5 yrs old. As she stood there, heavy and wet men’s wool overcoats were being thrown over her, one by one. This continued until she was buried. As a result, I heard her crying. At once, I knew it was my sister. My sister, who never got to be a little girl with little girl needs, rather was a child that was burdened with grown up expectations and responsibilities. Her acting like my mother was not a defiant stance she took, but one that she knew was expected. It was a role of survival. This may have been symbolic, rather than a reality, but in that moment, I was crushed as I saw a doll that she never got to play with.
So many emotions arose in me. I cried and was filled with compassion that was tainted by shame.
The Lord didn’t put shame on me; rather He wanted me to see things from a perspective of truth, rather than from the lens, that I had seen her from my whole life.
A soon as I could, I went to her house and told her of my awakening. I don’t think she fully understood it and the impact that it had on me. Besides, I was telling her something that was foreign to her. i.e. “God spoke to me” But what she did see was her “baby” sister in a much humbler place. I apologized for judging her…resenting her, while at the same time, thinking it was OK for her to do everything for my parents. I did feel inadequate and I reasoned that I didn’t live in the same town as they did. Nevertheless, I could have done more.
So my seemingly sincere (?) prayer was answered in a way that made me look at myself, rather than blame her. It was an additional measure of grace that God gave me such deep understanding of her.
Today, she and I have a wonderful relationship because of the extension of love, acceptance and forgiveness, we offer each other.
I thank God for that. I thank God for her. I thank God, as He answered my prayer so clearly but not anyway in which I asked.
Below, is a Prayer that many of us have heard. Maybe, like me, it may have become so familiar; we don’t pay attention to the words anymore.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things (people*) I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can (help me to change ME*)
And the wisdom to know the difference