We drove the windy road to his grandmas house. And I festered. My soul black and ugly, scarred by bitterness and resentment.
My baby boy, only 4 months old, strapped snugly into his new car seat. One of the only new things we had received at his birth. We were young and although we had planned and prayed for this baby, we hadn’t had money to purchase new things. Friends blessed us with hand me downs and I found some bargains at thrift stores but most of it was someone else’s taste, someone else’s first choice, not mine.
I didn’t want to go, but family obligation dictated that I had no choice.
Growing up it was just my brother and I. We didn’t have any close family. No big family dinners to attend or Christmas plans to negotiate between families. But I had married into Josh’s family, complete with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and of course his sister Anna.
We had a long and complicated history. Three years younger than Josh, Anna and I had drifted apart as she made different choices and I found her harder and harder to tolerate.
I had grown to resent her and the easy way she seemed to skate through the trouble that she caused and my judgemental heart wanted nothing more than to expose her for who I felt she really was. Not the sweet girl who every one else perceived.
And so, when she found herself pregnant and single at 19, I felt vindicated. The truth of her lifestyle was coming out. I cringe at how much I let bitterness dictate my heart toward her.
But when the family rallied around her, forgave her, blessed her abundantly, the bitterness raged and grew overtaking my heart completely.
I tried to find grace for her, but with each new blessing, I only ended up tallying how this pregnancy was so easy for her while we struggled and scraped by. When we arrived at her baby shower, I took it all in, the decorations, the food, the relatives that had flown in for this special occasion, as well as the mounds of presents for her baby. My nephew.
I smiled and made small talk, added my present to the pile, and hated every moment of it.
And I got it, the fatted calf, the production made of the dirty prodigal, stinking with his obvious sin. His choices clung to him in the filth and dirtiness. His face shrunken and gaunt from feasting on pig scraps. And I saw her belly swollen with this child, and the feast that surrounded her, for she was lost and now was being found.
God’s goodness was bringing her heart to repentance. But in my own selfishness I accepted none of this.
How unfair, my spirit cried like a petulant, spoiled child. And I was the prodigal’s brother: the one who was seemingly overlooked.
My ungrateful spirit didn’t see the blessings that were already abounding for me and the grace that covered me.
It shames me to say, but I hoarded grace like a pharisee. God used Anna to show me my own wretchedness.
I never knew the depth of my own depravity until I wrestled with my own self-righteousness. Before I walked with God my sins were plain, they were right there in the 10 commandments. But after the obvious was drawn away, what was left, what was far more insidious were the attitudes of my heart. The hidden things that I held in, all the while being a good Christian on the outside.
It’s her birthday today. And I can say that now, 11 years later, she is one of my dearest friends. She is kind and funny and compassionate. I have seen God work in her life in miraculous ways, clothing her in grace and calling her his own. And God has used her to speak to the areas of my heart that I needed to wrestle with. My own sin.
She is my sister and I love her.
And I have learned over the years that a true friend rejoices when their loved ones are blessed. A true friend celebrates their friend’s victories as their own. A true friend doesn’t allow jealousies and bitterness into their heart.
I always thought it was a true test of friendship to weather hard times to stick by your friends when they were down and out but really that’s not so hard. We get to play savior. We get to offer advice and dole out compassion. A friend’s hard times brings out the best in us, our sympathy, compassion, and caring. We shine.
But it is the triumphs of our friends that shows our true nature. If they succeed, are we happy for them? If they receive abundant blessings, do we rejoice? If honored or sought out or esteemed, do we step back and let them shine, cheering them on?
God has used Anna to show me how to be a true friend. To celebrate and rejoice when a friend does well. And she has done well.
Happy Birthday to my dear sweet sister. I thank God for you and the gift you are to me and those who are blessed enough to know you . You are beloved.