I love my family. A lot. The most out of anything I can think of. Nothing, on this side of heaven, can bring me more joy. I remember being a kid and people saying that I needed to love God above anything or anyone else. And I always felt like that was impossible, because how could I love anything more than I love my mom or dad, or my sisters and brothers? I know now that loving God above all else doesn’t require me to love my family less.
When my eldest sister moved away to Toronto about a decade ago, I remember, as a thirteen-year-old, experiencing for the first time this deep insatiable longing in my heart. Up until that point in my life, I don’t think I truly understood what it felt like to experience this kind of restlessness. I just didn’t think my heart could rest until my family was all back together again. And as the years went by, and more siblings moved away, it was almost like my life revolved around the times that we would reunite. It happens about once a year, thanks to weddings. My happiest and most peaceful times have always been when everyone in my family is together in my parents’ house– playing games, sharing meals, sipping coffee.
When I was younger, I actually held onto the hope that one day all my siblings would come back to live in our hometown and things would be just perfect, but when I grew older, I realized that being reunited with my family forever is something that probably won’t happen in this life. It was then that it became clear to me why loving God above all else is so important. He’s the only constant, the only guaranteed person that will always be close by. It’s not healthy for me to rely on my family to provide my life’s joy, meaning, and peace to my restlessness, because their presence in my life isn’t a guarantee.
It’s sometimes difficult for me to remember that, but my younger sister reminded me of this all over again last week when she told me she was moving away to live with my older sister. My initial reaction was selfish feelings of devastation. How could God let her leave? I felt, and still feel, dramatic for feeling that way, but her leaving feels like a weighty loss, reminiscent of when my eldest sister had left– a bitter reminder of how we can’t all be together all the time in this life. But soon after, I was able to get over my own feelings and feel great joy for the opportunities that my sister will have and even more overjoyed that my eldest sister will have the blessing of having a family member in her daily life again.
I was reading a scripture reflection a few days ago and the writer challenged me to reflect on who Jesus is to me, and who I am to Jesus. Reflecting on who Jesus is to me was easy enough, I have done that many times before, but I don’t know if I have ever taken the time to think about who I am to Jesus. And so I closed my eyes and prayed that the Holy Spirit would speak to my heart. And the first word that came to my mind was sister. And I, being so used to relating to God as my Father, was tempted to focus on my identity as His daughter. But then I put my pen to paper and wrote, “You are the sister I cannot bear to be without.” And I was taken aback and felt so deeply loved in that moment. It was as if Jesus was saying, “You already know you are a daughter of God, but I want you to know you are my sister.” And Jesus’ love for me became so personal, so tangible, in that moment. I have never had a daughter, so I don’t know what it feels like to love a child of my own. But I do have sisters and I love them more than my heart can bear sometimes. And I have brothers, and they are alright, too. I think I will start talking to Jesus as my brother more often now.