If you’ve been hearing a lot of noise online lately, and it wasn’t heavy metal bands on YouTube, you just might have wandered within earshot of the Soli Deo Gloria Sisters. Yes, it’s gotten a little rowdy over here, what with all the giggling and hugging and chocolate-passing. That’s because Jen, our hostess, invited/challenged everyone to share what sisterhood means to us.
I hesitated, wondering whether to participate. For me, the Soli Deo Gloria “Sisterhood” Challenge is just that: challenging. I would love to share, like many of the group, pictures and stories of the goofy, happy times my sister and I shared. But I’m not feeling it.
My own sister, Martha, died almost two years ago. She was a lovely, talented, hardworking woman full of courage and integrity. Between the years we lived in different states and the different routes we took through life (career, etc.), there were seasons when we were not very close. But underneath it all we were always friends. In the last several years we did have a close relationship, meeting often for a lunch-and-gabfest or maybe to see a show. Both writers, we encouraged and supported each other. I miss her a lot.
While I sat with Martha in the hospice during her last week, I drafted a blog post in tribute to her. As a preteen, she had been baptized into the Christian faith. But our recent conversations about spiritual things left me feeling uncertain about whether she had truly trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. In the post, “Truest Life,” I used the analogy of a child growing up sooner than her friends. This depicted the transition from earthly life into heaven, from the viewpoint of those left behind. All the while I was hoping, hoping this glorious transition would be her experience.
But I could not be sure.
And so, when I chose to include Christ’s words about being the resurrection and the life, and his promise of life-despite-death for all who believe in him, I could not in good conscience say they applied to her. As dear and sweet as she was, she had given me no reason to think that she owned those words for herself. Instead, I added the quote as a sort of postscript. As a statement of fact, whether or not Martha accepted it.
Since then, I have recalled more long-ago conversations that have quite blown out my little candle of hope. It breaks my heart to tell you that, over the years, Martha indicated again and again that she did not see any need for Christ to save or forgive her.
Since she chose not to trust Christ or bow to his authority, he would not have been so unkind as to drag her into heaven. Why unkind? –because there, everyone is in the presence of God all the time. Worshiping and serving the resurrected Jesus, enjoying his company—that is what people do in heaven.
According to Christ’s promise, he makes this eternal life available to everyone. But he will not force it on anyone. Even though the alternative is unthinkable darkness, he allows each individual their free will, to choose him… or not.
Please understand that I am not judging or bad-mouthing my sister. Martha was every bit as good a person as I am. The only difference is that I submitted to God’s authority, confessed my sinfulness—my failure to live up to his standard of perfection—and asked him to forgive me. If, as I fear, Martha chose not to do this, I will never see her again.
All this to say that my perspective on sisterhood has deepened and expanded since Martha’s death. No one can take her place in my heart, but other sisters—sisters in Christ—have stepped in for me. We have forged bonds that will never break. These I treasure, while mourning my dearest Sis.
I wish I could have done or said something to make Martha change her mind. But each must choose for himself or herself.
If we could live a good enough life to earn heaven, Christ would not have needed to endure the cross. How about you? Do you love people whose “good life” stands in the way, blocking them from seeing any need for God’s mercy? Can you remind them that Christ’s sacrifice was necessary for every one of us?
Thanks for reading,