I always wanted a sister. The Lord gave me an older brother, who after a contentious start to our relationship in childhood, is now one of my closest friends. But, as a child, when all he wanted was for me to find his required Lego pieces according to the assembly diagram but would never play with me and my Barbies in turn, I was convinced a female sibling was the solution to my problem. Through the books I read and movies I watched, I developed an idealized version of a sisterly relationship. Clearly, a sister was a best friend who lived in your home. She would always be at the ready for hilarity and nonsense or deep, thoughtful conversations. She was a whiz at braiding hair and down for an impromptu picnic. And she would love playing with Barbies.
You can imagine, as a child who desperately longed for a female relation, my profound joy as an adult at discovering that the Lord had a plan to give me more sisters than I could shake a stick at. One of the most gratifying aspects of being a child of God is belonging to a family, as we who are believers have been adopted into His kingdom. He made us to long for and flourish in community with others. In her new Bible study, She Belongs, Katy McCown says that it is in this family that the Lord has gifted us that we can find identity and acceptance.
As a kid dreaming of a sister, I saw the imagined relationship through rose-colored glasses forgetting that relationships can be challenging sometimes. In the same way that I mistakenly thought familial sisterhood was all gabbing and giggles, I waltzed into my relationships with sisters in Christ similarly. I have found my sisters-in-Christ to be women who were often ready for the hilarity, nonsense, and deep, thoughtful conversations I had longed for, but there have also been times of disagreement, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings that aren’t so fun. Sometimes sisterhood within the family of God is just hard. And I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t always been the ideal sister at times either.
The community of sisterhood the Lord gives us requires some effort from its members. I recognize that there are many areas of our lives that seem to demand so much of us already. But if we could break down what a sister in Christ should look like, I think we’ll see that the work needed in this area is just good work in general and will benefit other areas of our lives. One of our main directives from Jesus is to love God and love others (Matt. 22: 37-40), so how can we do both in community with female believers?
Take Our Own Spiritual Walk Seriously
As sisters in Christ, we are often called on to do spiritually challenging things. To listen and be asked for advice. To listen and not be asked for advice. To pray. We won’t be successful with any of those God-given tasks and helpful to our sisters if we are not conscientious of our own spiritual walk. It goes back to the modern adage of putting on one’s own oxygen mask first before helping others. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” We can’t fill someone else’s cup with godly wisdom or effective prayer if our own spiritual tank is running on fumes. We need to make sure we’re building and maintaining a solid foundation on God’s Word and prayer so that when our sisters need us, we can be steady and dependable.
Take Ourselves Less Seriously
The passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13 is often reserved for romantic relationships. As we are called to love even our enemies, the bond we have as sisters can certainly benefit from applying these verses. To prevent speed-reading through this oft recited selection, really consider it in light of the bonds of sisterhood.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”1 Cor. 13:4–7
How much sweeter our relationships with our sisters in Christ would be if we weren’t so easily offended, if we weren’t prone to gossip and dishonesty, if we weren’t so concerned with how our own image was regarded. If you know there are some well-worn sin paths in your sisterhood circle, I pray that you would be strengthened by the Spirit to carve a new path with God-honoring behaviors.
Let the Golden Rule Govern Us
Finally, I think we would do well to keep it schoolyard-simple with the Golden Rule. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12). We should be the sister in Christ we want others to be for us: hospitable, friendly, considerate, compassionate, forgiving, and gracious. It’s unfair to expect someone to deliver what I’m unwilling to offer.
When life fatigues us, we are inclined to want to be a part of something that necessitates little from us. Maintaining a healthy sisterhood will call for effort; but our exertion will reap benefits across all our relationships and in every aspect of our lives. I know when my sisterly relationships are thriving, I feel like I can take on the world with the chorus of my cheering squad ringing in my ears.
Join the Esther Press Community for Deeper Spiritual Sisterhood
There is no substitute for in-person female fellowship so if you don’t have that, I would implore you to find it within a local church body or parachurch ministry. I would also highly recommend joining our Esther Press community on September 20 for a new five-week online Bible study going through Katy McCown’s She Belongs: Finding Your Place in the Body of Christ, referenced above. If you struggle with feeling accepted or fitting in, or simply desire a deeper connection with others, this study will help you discover how paramount your wholeness in Christ is and how essential you are to His family. A private Facebook group will allow you access to a live Q&A with Katy and exclusive content with a warm, dedicated community of believers. Hurry over to the website for all the details!
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Dana Carrington loves Jesus and words. She also loves that the Lord gave her three incredible sisters through the gift of marriage! A southern transplant now living in the national capital region, she reads travel guides for fun and has an extensive song lyric database in her brain which comes in handy for games of Name that Tune on road trips. She understands fruitcake’s bad rap is well-deserved, but is willing to bet her family’s recipe will change hearts and minds. Her husband and four kiddos are her greatest delight.