Galatians 6:1-10: Freedom and Sibling Rivalry

Today’s post was written by Lindsay Howard.  Thanks Lindsay!

I was jealous from the first day. Literally, the very first day. Any baby takes some getting used to, but when Kathleen came home from the hospital, tiny, frail, and needy, I knew something fundamental had snapped in my first-born world.

And then she grew…… artistic, talented, beautiful, charismatic, adored by all who met her. We are, in most ways, diametric opposites. In countless childhood moments, I compared myself to her, competed with her, and felt defeated by her.  She was the yin to my yang, the Jacob to my Esau. Throughout our early years, like a third sibling that spoke only to me, my jealousy grew alongside her.

Flash forward. By the time my sister married the Lord had already done a great work in my heart. Our relationship had grown past civility to the point of being friendly. But even the warmest moments between us could be chilled by a sudden draft of rivalry. Life seemed to favor her.  The Lord, too.

Then, when I moved to San Diego, my sister and brother-in-law began renting my house in Virginia from me.  They, still newlyweds, needed an affordable place to live, and I wanted tenants I could trust. It seemed like the perfect solution until we sat down to negotiate the terms of their lease. They spelled out their budget and stood firm on their offer. My attempts to negotiate fell on deaf ears. It felt like the countless times in our childhood that I had been forced to let my sister take what was mine because it made her stop crying.

I felt trapped between my desire to love her and my sense of injustice.  Squeezed and desperate, I fled to the one place I could be truly alone…the shower.  Tears and prayers mingled with soap and water. “Lord, change her! Make her see what’s fair!  Make her do what’s right!  After all, I am a single mom…”

And then, he answered…..

“Daughter. I hear you, but let me ask you this: What is this relationship worth to you? Would you pay this same amount (the discrepancy between the rent figures we’d each brought to the table) to heal your relationship with your sister? You would? Then would you lay down your “right” to a “fair” rent in order to see what I will do in your relationship?”

I was shocked, scandalized. I had already given up a lot. How could I be expected to give more? How could he ask it?

Sowing and reaping. The truth I needed was in this week’s passage. What you plant is what you harvest. Put in wheat, you don’t get rye… you get wheat. I had spent a lifetime  painstakingly planting weeds. In one field, I was constantly sowing comparison, and harvesting competition and jealousy. On an adjacent plot, I had cultivated a robust orchard of love for justice and personal freedom. Juicy self-righteousness and self-entitlement were bursting forth from every branch.  “Love my (sister) as myself”?  How could I sow that seed in this field?!

In that moment of crying out in the shower, the Lord took mercy on this wretched weed farmer, and opened my eyes. He didn’t ask me to pull my own weeds, but showed me One who did.

Suddenly my vision was lit up with the immensity of what Jesus willingly surrendered. Philippians 2:6-8 tells us that he

“was in the form of God, [yet] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The invitation at that moment was to stop grasping my rights and identify in a new, visceral way with my Savior. As I did, the Holy Spirit gave me power to turn from the weeds I had cultivated and begin to sow new seed.

At the same time, this suffering offered me a priceless opportunity to understand his work in a deeper way. It provided a conduit into the suffering and labor of Jesus. That fellowship is itself a sweet, sweet reward.

The fruit that remains. The Lord warned me that choosing to honor my sister’s requests would not be easy, and he was right. There are still days when I battle that familiar feeling that I’m being taken advantage of. But the dividends have been more than worth the investment.

Today, my sister is one of my closest confidantes and best friends. Her opposite nature has brought depth to my world and often challenged my assumptions. And I never laugh as hard as I do with Kathleen.

But these great joys pale in the light of the work Jesus has done in my heart through this situation. I see his work and sacrifice just a little more clearly, and I love him more for it. With his help, I’ve pulled up and plowed over those old fields, and come to learn first-hand that when you sow love for your neighbor, you reap greater lover for your Savior. There is no more valuable crop, my friends.

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