Sisterhood Challenge

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,
Jan

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17 Responses to Sisterhood Challenge

  1. But Jan, you have a heart that’s beautiful and big enough to love and accept and honor so many of us, the same way we love, accept and honor you, whether we share your same beliefs or not.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    I fear the same for my sister. She accepted Christ years before I did.Her walk was on again, off again until she turned from HIm to practice the Jews faith with her husband. I dearly love them both and pray earnestly for them. It is difficult knowing they believe the Old Testament but don’t believe the Messiah has come yet.
    I have many wonderful sisters in the Lord and cherish them very much. We pray for my sister and her family to find their way to our Lord’s loving and saving grace. Yes I can relate to the way you feel. Thanks for sharing because it is nice to know someone else has been there also.

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    • Jan says:

      There’s so much out there… so many conflicting ideas. God can lead his own through the maze. Perhaps your dear ones will meet some Messianic Jews who can help them put the pieces together.

      Thank you for taking time to comment.

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  3. Oh, Jan. I just don’t have words — I feel the heartbreak of the not knowing and the wondering “what if…” And I love the fact that sisters in Christ have been there and here for you. You are much, much, much loved.

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  4. Jan, my heart was pierced by this story….for you. And then pierced by the words that challenged me:
    “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?”
    That’s just convicting….Father, remind me to pray for those people I know who are not following you, that they would see their need for a Saviour.

    Jan–thank you for being courageous and sharing your story.

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  5. Dionne says:

    Oh! This is the best blog I have read by you…such a gentle way of saying something that is so not light-hearted. You say it all with such grace! My sister and I are not close,but she does have salvation…it is my brother I truly worry about and a close friend. Pray for me to have courage to speak truth to them both. I have at times and then it always seems to come back on me negatively. You are amazing…your attitude and tone of voice here speak such authority, but again with such grace! Love you so much dear sister, blessings to you Jan!

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  6. melissaholgate says:

    Hi there, I am stopping over from Home Sanctuary. Thank you for visiting my blog. I love how real and raw your thoughts are expressed here. I have an older sister that accepted Christ in her adulthood, and finally understood why I was so passionate about Christ. My mom has also accepted Christ, but does not attend church because she is married to an athiest. Both have husbands that have been burned by church at some point in their lives and have not recovered from it. They are both a blessing and model of 1 Peter 3:1 “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” No, we can not obtain salvation by just living a “good life.” If that were true, Christ would have died in vain. I pray for my step dad and my brother in law all the time that their hearts would be changed and they would know freedom in Christ.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Melissa

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    • Jan says:

      Hi, Melissa,

      Thank you SO much for taking time to write. This was a hard post to publish, and I appreciate the understanding I have received.

      Blessings,

      Jan

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  7. Adrienne R says:

    Hi Jan,
    This is Adrienne, from our Soli Deo Gloria “Sisterhood” group. Just stopping by to say hi!

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  8. marlece says:

    Oh my goodness, THIS, I think is something I think I have heard for the first time EVER! That is rare, we all seem to say so much of the same but this brought on for me a thought pattern I don’t think I’ve ever been. When someone dies that we love we always would like to ‘assume’ or ‘believe’ they went home to Jesus, why? because we love them . When a person of faith has this happen it seems no one voices this loss, like they don’t want to accept it. This is why you are amazing to me. You put it out there and don’t put flowers on it if it doesn’t deserve to have flowers. You are real and tell the truth, this is such a beautiful character in you. Jan, thank you for giving me permission to speak the truth like you do.

    I am so sorry for your loss. A sister, you can’t replace they know you like no other. And to see your sister pass knowing she may not be living with Jesus for eternity is a hard pill to swallow. I am sure your heart is broken in more ways than you can count. Oh the grief! You are a beautiful sister Jan.

    This, I think is the best post I have ever read. EVER!

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    • Jan says:

      Marlece, you are such a dear! Thank you for your kind, understanding words. It took me a long time to acknowledge this side of things. I so appreciate you!

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