Best Friends, Best Enemies
We tortured him. I should be ashamed. Yet, when those memories hit, a nostalgic, perhaps mischievous, smile creeps onto my face. As I reminisce over common stories with friends, I do believe a tinge of pride enters my voice. We traveled across the country in our Dodge wagon, two kids in the back seat, two lying on top of the luggage in the bicky-back. We knew better than to hit. Hitting could result in an immediate swerve to the roadside and a paddling. So we pointed. Our victim—Wade, the youngest, of course. Our best intimidating stares accompanied the pointing fingers.
“Mom, make them stop!” Whining comes much more naturally to six year olds than the stoic disregard which would have been a more effective defense. “We aren’t touching him.” False innocence rang in the tones of my brother, sister, and me. Forced to twist around in the front seat, my mother must have caught sight of one of our wilting fingers. Rolled eyes and shaking head. “Don’t point at him, either.” With fingers forbidden, we resorted to simple glaring. More whining ensued. I believe we were eventually assigned individual windows to stare from, but victory was ours.
As a parent, I cringe at this story. So much of my time is spent preventing, or, more honestly, attempting to call to a screeching halt, just such behavior. I lecture on the Beatitudes, especially “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”Matthew 5:9 NIV I point out the characteristics of love in I Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind . . . it is not rude . . .it is not easily angered . . .love does not delight in evil . . . it always protects.” NIV
But the sibling in me insists that Wade’s character grew stronger through our shenanigans. The fact that he is a normal, well-adjusted (one assumes, anyway), non-serial-killer who supports a lovely family backs me up. Plus there’s the fact that thirty-five years later, we all love to gather, and we all love to tease.
Not all our interaction was cruel. I remember being so proud of coaxing baby Wade to sleep when I was six. I remember screaming in support of my older brother, Mark, as he played football. Playing “Friends” with my sister Nancy (and sometimes Wade) was our favorite preteen game—interesting that we had to pretend, but truly the imaginary aspect was more our adulthood than our friendship.
God provides a smorgasbord of spiritual applications through our family relationships.
First, rationalization taints my logic. Satan can help me twist anything and hide the lies of my own self-justifications. My stories display tons of room for growth. I may be forty-seven, but aspects of my spirituality are still thirteen. I need to pray and find the balance between guilt which convicts me of my own thoughtlessness and appreciating the camaraderie of youth.
Although using growth through difficulties was faulty logic in validating my own behavior, this aspect of life emphasizes the truth of Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV In spite of the rotten motivations of siblings, God takes our childhood mockery and teaches us perspective, patience, and perseverance.
Interesting, the Bible refers to Jesus as my brother (Romans 8:17, Mark 3:35), I never think of this torturous characteristic; instead I find assurance that I am beloved by God as Jesus was and I am understood by His Son. Regardless of our mutual taunts (and they were definitely mutual), I am somehow confident that my brothers and sister are on my side and will always be there. I’d like to think Jesus would manage to tease me, but always in a way that was not cruel. I imagine He would live out the cliché of laughing with me not at me.
Finally, I find in my memories the constant humor provided by our human condition. So many comedians take advantage of our inclination to laugh at our weaknesses; they are funny in others because we relate to them ourselves. I’m sure that if Wade and I had a strained adult relationship, we would not be able to so easily snicker at these childhood cruelties. But I thank God for the laughter and joy I have in knowing that my siblings know the worst of me—they know-it-all, the klutz, the insensitive, the insecure—and still love me. As does God.
Of course, He loves me best. (Tongue out at Mark, Nan, and Wade). So there.