“Aren’t you just so glad to be with your sisters tonight?” I am at the women’s Bible study, and when the leader says this, a murmur of assent washes over the room. There is a sort of collective breath; a tandem, appreciative nod.
The way she says this word, sisters, causes me to immediately picture embroidered pillowcases. Gift books that say “A sister is a friend for life.” Clever little rhyming poems embellished with pink flowers. Tea pots.
It’s sticky—cherry flavored. It’s sisterhood that sits on a doily so it doesn’t leave a ring on the mantle.
The phrase – sisters in Christ – carries in it an unspoken expectation. A tendency to assume that these relationships will be instant. Deep. Because we are connected at the heart by Christ, we will love each other immediately. Finish each other’s sentences. Get each other’s jokes. Share a pair of magical traveling pants.
I have one younger sister, and there is no one I love like her. No one that gets me like she does. But then, we’ve had twenty-five years to get used to each other.
Let’s not forget about that time I burned a hole in her forehead with a curling iron while playing beauty salon. Or about that year that she copied everything I did and made me insane. Let’s not forget the hair pulling, the clothes stealing, the door slamming. The ways I let her down without even knowing it.
To be sisters is simply this: to be thrown together into family. You are linked forever by blood and history and memory and tradition. You get no say in this, no choice. You may be completely and decidedly different. Your personalities may rub up against one another in a way that makes you want to ram your head into a wall, but it doesn’t matter. You are sisters. You are connected. You are forever.
The problem with this metaphor is not that it is overused (though it is) or that it is untrue. It’s that it pretends that to be sisters is glossy, flowery, potpourri-scented, hand-holding bliss. It insinuates that this is easy. That once you become part of the family of God, this all comes naturally.
It doesn’t take into account the humanity of our relationships, the brokenness. It doesn’t leave space for pain and miscommunication. . It forgets that while no one can love you like family, no one can hurt you like family either. It is possible to smile and say sister with a heart filled with hate. It is possible to miss the point entirely.
The room is filled with women. There are some that talk too much, some who seem cold and snooty in their silence. There is the one with the nervous giggle. We will not see eye to eye on everything; we will not necessarily click.
But to hold this faith is to be held in this family. It is to acknowledge that we do not always understand each other but that we belong to each other. That must we love each other even when we hate each other. It is to sometimes fight with one another but always fight for one another.
We are connected by blood and history. Memory and tradition. We are forever.