If you know me well, you might have heard me say this (and you will most definitely hear me say it again), “I love to love!” I am often reluctant to compliment myself but, in this arena, I will actually admit it – I am good at loving others. I like to think that by loving people genuinely and completely, I’m offering them a passing glimpse into His perfect love (that’s where I get all of my material from after all.)
I am the second-born in my family. I have an older brother and he is awesome. As font space limits me today, however, I am going to gloat over the delight of my two sisters alone. After all, my lessons in how to love well were hard, faulted even, and no one knows that better than my sisters.
Jessica is my identical twin, born just 9 minutes after me. Yep, you heard me, identical twins: same voice, same hair, same eyes, same part, same height, many same experiences… you get the picture. There are several wonderful things about being a twin and yet, it can be hard too. The scripture that best sums up our unique expression of love is this: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8
Having a twin is like being married, but for all of your life. When we grew up, we knew how to fight, and I mean really fight, but through all of that we learned how to reconcile, forgive, and truly repent. When we lived closer (I live in Africa now and she resides in the USA), we could actually finish each other’s sentences and we have stories of those “twin moments” where we seemed to actually experience something that the other twin was actively going through.
My twin sister has been to me a constant source of God’s extravagantly generous type of love. She has heard me share this story 1,000 times, but let me share it again with all of you: We were in the 5th grade and there was a Hallmark store we could ride our bikes to that had a Garfield stuffed animal that I adored. I don’t remember telling anyone about it, but somehow she knew.
Now, my siblings and I each earned an allowance… but I am talking middle-class type of income allowance here, and let’s just say that the Hallmark store was not the cheapest store on the block. Well, even though I didn’t know how and I don’t even remember why, my selfless sister Jessica bought me that Garfield. There he was in his striped PJs and holding a little stuffed Odie bear. It was the best gift I have ever been given.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13
The LORD didn’t leave me with just one great sister, but our family got an encore; another sister, Bethany, came along eight years later. I remember that we used to ask my parents if she was a “mistake”, coming 8 years after the rest of us and all. And I could never agree more with how they would answer, “She was never a mistake. She is the perfect finishing touch to our family.”
Bethany has continued to teach me about God’s all-encompassing, undiscriminating kind of love. She has never known a stranger, has challenged me to be a better reflection of Him, and can effortlessly love through any social, economic, or political barrier this world tries to construct.
“We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:19-21
The story I like to share to best illustrate who my little sister is comes from her wedding day – a bit of background, however, must first be shared. I was married at age 30. I had an amazing church ceremony, catered reception afterwards, and the music, cake and programs could all match one’s stereotypical wedding preconceptions. It was hands-down the best day of my life, but it was predictable and standard as far as weddings go.
My little sister, however, had a one-of-a-kind wedding party. She had a ceremony on the beach, wedding party present and barefoot, with one even wearing a mask. Her ring bearers, two grown friends who were dating, danced the ring up the aisle and there was an In-N-Out Burger trailer that pulled up in front when the dancing, drinking, and laughing finally demanded that we all stop for a bite to eat.
Bethany has traveled the world and now works in Hollywood. She has seen every tribe, every tongue, and every nation and she has learned to love each one of them for who they are. Bethany has struggled to see Jesus in the pews of a church and yet she knows Him by name. Bethany would literally take the shirt off her back for you – whether young or old, Black or White, Gentile or Jew.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6
I love to love friends! I really do. I am forever grateful, however, that I have been able to taste and see the fullness of His love through my two amazing sisters. I have not always been easy to love, that is for sure, but they have loved me with an extravagant, long-suffering kind of love. They have loved me with the love of Christ Himself.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8