As the oldest daughter in my family, I had many dreams of being the “ideal oldest sister.” My siblings would always feel like they could share anything with me, they’d never feel like I was too busy for them, and I would always be the perfect example.
Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize how far I was from my ideal! For one, my siblings (more than anybody!) already knew all my flaws, and pretending they weren’t there certainly didn’t help the situation! Paradoxically, it was only as I humbled myself, admitted my struggles, and even asked for their prayers and advice that they could begin to respect me.
I also realized that the closeness I so desired doesn’t come overnight. I’m so thankful I had older, godly young ladies in my life who encouraged me to listen to my siblings and build trust with them. Sometimes when my siblings were young, there were seasons when I wondered if they would ever open up. But looking back, I’m so incredibly grateful for the Lord’s mercy in drawing our hearts together toward Him. And I’ve been amazed at how the Lord has used my younger siblings to encourage my faith when I was faltering.
Here are a few practical things that have been helpful to me:
- Living out the gospel can be powerful, even when we don’t have an open door to speak it into their lives. When we are dazzled by God ourselves, our siblings will pick up on our excitement. If God has shown us more of Himself in a quiet time or we’ve heard an encouraging sermon, let’s share it with our siblings! They will learn to love what we love. A friend once shared with me that she believes it was watching her older sister’s faithfulness to study God’s Word each morning that kept her on the straight and narrow way as a teen. One little act — but such an incredible impact!
2. Let’s just be interested in them. Having a deep conversation about spiritual things, while it has its place, isn’t the only way we can invest in our siblings. In fact, just listening to them goes a long way in building the necessary trust so we can have those deeper conversations. For me right now, that means being willing to listen if my brother wants to explain how to solve some fluid mechanics formula (even if I don’t understand a thing!) or hearing all the details about my sisters’ babysitting jobs.
3. Have fun! I was probably the world’s most serious person from about age 13 to 21. 🙂 Looking back, I think it was from a desperate desire to be accepted and respected as an adult. But recently, the Lord has been changing my heart in that area. One of my sisters recently said to me, “Julianna, I think as you’ve gotten older, you’ve learned how to have more fun.” It’s been freeing to realize that as I root myself in the truths of the gospel, I can be free to have fun with my siblings. And it has been so helpful to our relationship!
Recently, the four of us turned off all the lights in the house and played hide and seek, which included crazy things like locking each other in the linen closet and climbing the wall divider between our living room and kitchen. I’m realizing that these are the memories that continue to unite us together so that we can encourage each other in the Lord.
4. Let’s not be afraid to get messy. A while ago, one of my siblings was going through a difficult time, and I noticed myself beginning to back up from the relationship. Honestly, I just didn’t want to sacrifice enough to find out what was going on and walk through it together. It took the Lord sending someone else into my life to prompt me to once again start investing in the relationship. There were times when it was hard. It was so much easier to keep things on a surface level instead of asking the difficult questions. But I’m so thankful that I did, and it was amazing to get to watch God work in both of our lives through it.
I still have so much to learn in this area, but I’m so thankful for God’s grace to redeem relationships, even when I fail! If any of you have additional ways you’ve encouraged your siblings, please comment below. Let’s encourage one another along this journey!
Your sister in the Lord,