Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Have Not Love?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

This scripture is pretty much kicking my butt this week. I actually went to my church class on Sunday after working in the nursery, which I usually don't do because I'm usually a zombie. Maybe it was all that caffeine I ingested, but I had no problem staying up till 1 or so, even though I worked all night long Saturday night. The Sunday school teacher was talking about love, and loving those that are hard to love. I felt like the biggest hypocrite there. These people know me, they know my ex-husband, what he did to wind up where he is, and all that's happened since. They watched me go from angry momma bear to wounded wife grasping at anything that would bring her husband back. That's over simplifying things, but there was a time when I was my ex's biggest cheerleader, although I never excused or defended what he did. All in all, most of the time, I have been able to demonstrate a Christ-like love for my ex-husband, even during the times when I've realized that loving him didn't mean staying married, and it didn't mean letting him abuse me emotionally and spiritually. So the teacher used my treatment of my ex as an example of what he was talking about. Because these people know that part of my life, I wasn't offended. But they don't know about my sister S.

S lives in another state and we don't have much contact, so not many people in my everyday life do know about S. Two of my kids have never met her, one of them doesn't remember, and the other two try to forget. She scared them, she really did. One of my bosses at work knows about S, because a few months back, S somehow got the city operator to transfer her to the supervisors at work to leave me a message. She apparently lost my phone number so instead of calling my other sisters or writing to me, she tracked me down at work. She called not once, but twice, and both times gave the supervisor she spoke to pretty much her whole life story, including the accident she was in years ago that is still causing her problems, and how her trailer still has a lot of damage from Hurricane Katrina. Now S is calling me on a regular basis, and asking me for help.

S is 8 years older than me, the second oldest. She was 17, soon to be 18, when our mom died. She had already been in a lot of trouble, she hated my father (her step-father) so immediately after the funeral she went to live with an aunt in Texas. There was a span of time when I didn't hear from any of my sisters or family members on my mom's side of the family, and I have reason to believe it was because my dad wouldn't allow contact. As soon as I was out of my dad's house at 16, I got back in touch with my oldest sister V, who pretty much took over the role of mom to me and my 2 other sisters, even if we didn't live with her (the oldest sister is the one I went to Tucson to visit.) S though, would go through years at a time when nobody heard from her. She apparently found even more trouble than before, and was in and out of prison for drugs. The last time she went, she was caught with so much c*caine that she could have been charged with trafficking, but because she had such a long history of using, they believed her when she said she wasn't dealing. When anybody did hear from her, it was usually V, and it was usually because S wanted money. Because V felt like she had to take care of us, she always has done whatever she could to help any of us, even if it meant giving the shirt off her back. She's still very much that way, and with other people. But she has gotten taken advantage of several times, especially by S. I pretty much grew up watching S call V and say "I have cancer, but the doctors won't treat me until I give them $500 and I don't have it." The next time anybody heard from her, she had been miraculously cured. Even though I admire V's givingness (is that even a word?) I have never had any desire to be the one people always went to for financial help.

S has finally beaten the drug habit, and is no longer in trouble with the law, but for whatever reason, she still won't or can't fend for herself. She subsists on government assistance, and is really only a step or two away from being homeless at any given time. I guess she's really not lead a much different life than a lot of those people. Most of them didn't become homeless by just deciding one day to be that way. They didn't start off that way, and I would guess have made a lot of the same choices.

So why is it that I have an easier time loving those total strangers and wanting to help them than I do my sister? Why do I not care about the choices they've made to get themselves where they are, but with her every time she tells me how bad her life is (which is often,) I can't help but think (and sometimes say) "it's that way because you made it that way." Is she not the least of these too? I cringe every time I see her name on my caller ID because I know she's not calling to ask me how my kids are doing in school. Maybe I have an easier time caring about the strangers because they don't have my phone number? Yeah, contact with the strangers is on my terms, when I'm ready to love them. With family, it's not so much on my terms. Man, I suck.

Here I am being real to the bloggy world - I am considering ways to help S, but only so that she will leave me alone. Not because I love her, or even because I genuinely want to help her. It's because I want to be able to tell her "I did this big thing for you, now don't call me and ask me for money." Because I wouldn't mind hearing from her if every call weren't about each ache and pain and medical procedure and bill that's late getting paid. Really, she's 47 years old and sounds about 80. But I don't want to accept her how she is. That's not love. I'm pretty sure it's not how my mom would want me to treat my sister, and I'm very sure it's not how Jesus would want me to treat my sister.

Just as I start to think though that it's too much to ask of me, I remember the cross, and how that wasn't too much for God. I have so far to go.


Rebekah said...

Over the past 6 months I have really been hurt by some 'friends'. (nothing like what you have been through) but it was starting to make me very angry and bitter.
I am not that kind of person and I dont want to be. I have had to pray each day, asking God to help me forgive, to help me love them anyway. Just a simple little prayer, God knows the details. Although I still hurt and feel wounded, I feel the forgiviness.
Your life amazes me. You have been through so much. God loves you. God wants you.
There is this song KLove plays all the time but I cant think of the name of it. Anyway, the chorus is "I turn to you, Jesus. I turn to you, Lord"
I just wanted to encourage you. God can change your heart, and your sister.

Grafted Branch @ Restoring the Years said...

Lots of very difficult choices involved here, it sounds like. How to help without being an enabler? Or maybe that's not part of the equation?

Sounds like a situation requiring a lot of prayer.