Battle of the Siblings
By Jane Thornton –
I stormed through the doorway of the church classroom, flounced into a plastic chair, crossed my arms, and exclaimed, “I hate Mark!” Thus ended the battle between my seventeen-year-old brother and me—and our privilege of sleeping a little later on Sunday mornings and driving in on our own instead of riding the church’s bus route with our parents.
The mêlée began as I preened in front of the mirror with a curling iron. Mark hollered that we needed to leave. I bawled back that I was almost (halfway, in teen-girlese) ready. We repeated the exchange at least once. Patience thoroughly tested and failed, Mark swaggered in and manhandled the styling utensil from my hand, both of us miraculously managing to escape a burn.
I shrieked. I dug in my heels.
To no avail—my athletic brother literally dragged me, hair half-styled, yowling threats of repercussions, to the car and stuffed me in. I’m sure the streaks of tears and angry scowl I wore were much more unflattering than the frizzy half of my hairdo.
Not the finest Christ-like moment for either of us.
Unfortunately, it does not stand alone in our high school history. On another morning, we were leaving for school. Mark blasted the horn of the El Camino. I scurried out of the house. (I believe he would say I meandered.) I plopped into the passenger seat. (He would describe my motion as easing into place.) Leaving my door open, I thrust my folder and books onto the floorboard. (His version, I fussily arranged my supplies.) Tolerance pushed to the breaking point, Mark threw the truck into reverse and gunned the engine.
This time it was metal that shrieked. The basketball goal caught my open door and twisted the protesting iron completely off the truck.
Poor Mark, his graduation present was a new door for Daddy’s vehicle. I still feel guilty about that consequence even though I swear to this day I was not intentionally testing him.
These days, the memory of those farcical skirmishes draws rueful laughter, but at the time, resentment and bitterness brewed inside the automatic love for a sibling. In college, after a couple of years of distance, we discovered that we enjoyed each other’s company. He wrote me a poem for my twentieth birthday about realizing he not only loved me but liked me, too. I treasure my friendship with my big brother, and our combat has long ended.
In a recent Christmas letter, I described our congregation as extended family. I’m sorry to say we’ve been having some sibling battles there, too, but these conflicts have challenged my faith unlike any run-in with my blood relatives. Perhaps an insecurity exists without the blood bond. Perhaps we all expect more from each other because we’re adults and Christians. Perhaps we should.
However, the memory of those early clashes reminds me that family life is not always smooth. Each person has achieved a different level of maturity. We do have the bond of Christ’s blood, and we can grow past the resentment into a deeper love and acceptance.
“For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (I John 4:20b-21).