by Leslee Stewart
“White Christmas” is one of my favorite holiday movies. In it, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen play the Haynes sisters and get to dance and sing with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. In one of my favorite scenes, they sing this classic song about sisters.
“Sisters” (click to go directly to the YouTube video of “Sisters”)
When my sister and I were little, we used to watch that scene over and over each Christmas. In no time, we had it memorized and would sing it, word for word, inflections and all. We never did the feathered fan dance, but I remember us singing it on road trips to pass the time.
When I think back about that movie, those sisters and specifically, that song, I always wished my sister and I were like the Haynes sisters. “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters….” But reality is my sister and I have spent most of our lives at odds with each other.
When I came on the scene, she was already in kindergarten. With more than five years separating us, I grew up believing she was the authority on everything. She was the one who taught me what was cool. She introduced me to great 80s music and not-so-great 80s fashion (Hello, shoulder pads and stirrup pants!). I remember always wanting to be wherever she was. Looking back, I can only imagine how annoying I must have been. It didn’t seem to matter how hard she dropped hints that she needed her space, I just didn’t have a clue.
I remember about this time my mom (who is the older of two girls), telling me that one day, when we were both grown-ups, my sister and I would be great friends. That’s what had happened between my mom and her sister, and it was going to happen with me and my sister. So that’s where I hung my hope – that one day we would be friends. One day we would be “devoted sisters,” just like the ones in the movies.
If only it were that simple.
It’s been more than 25 years since my sister and I lived under the same roof. And in that quarter of a decade, we’ve both changed a lot. She moved half way across the country at 18, finished college, married, and started a family. I, on the other hand, kept closer to home, close to our parents, living only a mile away from them at one point in my marriage.
Over the years, we’ve made different choices about how we want to live our lives – choices that have disappointed one another because they didn’t line up with what we thought was best for that person’s life. It’s been a rough journey and we’ve had seasons where we didn’t communicate at all because the hurts were too deep. But through it all, God has been faithful. It’s been hard, but little by little we are working to try and restore our relationship.
For me, God’s been revealing that even though my relationship with my sister isn’t storybook perfect, He has a plan for it. His plan has required me to give up my plan for what our relationship should look like. He’s asked me to let go of the need to be in control, to quit trying to avoid all manner of conflict and to stop being “fake” in order to safeguard my heart. He’s shown me that I need to show love and respect to my sister, even when I disagree with her. He’s challenged me to be kind to her, especially when I don’t feel like it. He’s made me stamp out the embers of jealousy when they’ve tried to ignite my heart.
Most importantly, God has shown me that I can’t give up on my sister because He’s never given up on me. Our relationship is to be treasured, cultivated and cherished. No matter how rocky the soil of our hearts might seem, I know God will bring a harvest of blessing to my relationship with my sister as long as I don’t give up.
Are there women in your family (or friends) who you’ve wanted to give up on? What has God been showing you about these relationships? Share your comments below!
Leslee Stewart oversees small groups for GFC Beautiful. She is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She openly admits she owns too many throw pillows, loves junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
I’m also about five years younger than my sister and reading your story makes me realize how blessed I am that we do share a close relationship. However, I do feel I should have a closer bond with some other relatives. Your words encourage me and others to not give up hope on those relationships. Thanks, Leslee, for being so transparent.
This is awesome, Leslee. Thank you. My sister is 10 years older than me and we’ve chosen very different paths for our lives including our relationship with Christ. We’ve lived in different states almost all of our adult lives and it’s been five years since I saw her. My mother and aunt were best friends, so I always hoped and dreamed that it would be the same for my sister and me. I now realize that I must accept my sister for who she is and try harder to make the most of our relationship. You’ve given me some very important things to think about.