Eighteen months into my life I was gifted a sister. I don’t remember receiving this gift, but the moment was captured in a photograph. Mom and dad placed her on my lap, my chubby arms wrapped around her, with mom on one side of me and my grandfather on the other. The look on my face is simple and complete adoration. My mom said that I told everyone who met my new sister for the first time that she was ‘My Baby”.
It was nice always having a playmate; someone to be silly with and share a laugh. We made up games, played pretend and explored the world around us. We were rarely apart. I remember vividly a night that a thunderstorm was roaring outside.
Kelly and I ran upstairs and hid underneath mom’s bed. I think we hid there out of fear of the loud booms, but soon it turned in to entertainment. We lay on our tummies, side by side, waiting for the next crack of thunder and when it would hit we would scream. Then our screams turned into giggles.
Of course, having a sister 18 months younger than me wasn’t always pleasant. Kelly and I fought a great deal the older we became. Our closeness in age, sharing a room most of our childhood and our personality difference lead to some real turmoil between us. Once in fourth grade I was sick of her following me around on the playground at school, so I tried to convince her she was adopted. Naturally, Kelly cried to mom when we got home and I was in major trouble. Or when Kelly thought it was great fun to watch me have a complete melt down after she had gone through my things, rearranging them, knowing too well that the OCD in me would make me act like a lunatic. I could write a book just about the crazy, mean things we did to each other. We laugh about it all now, because as adults we know that is part of growing up with siblings.
We were very different kids to say the least. Even though we grew up in the same house with the same rules, we turned into two very different adults. Grownups don’t always see eye to eye on things. Shocker, I know. Eleven years ago I did something that haunts me to this day. I am not proud of my actions. However, I have learned a lot from my mistake.
You see, eleven years ago my little sister called me and told me that she was a lesbian. Some of you reading this are thinking, ‘Big deal’ and some of you are clutching your chest, saying a prayer and feeling heartbroken for my family.
My first reaction was anger and disbelief. I remember telling her that she was making it up, that she couldn’t be. There was a lot of tension in our family over the news. My mom was worried and confused. Soon my feelings changed to, ‘I have to fix this’.
She is wrong and misguided. All I have to do is give her the truth and she will be okay again.
The best way to do this was to shove every Bible verse I could at her telling her that it was a sin. All that did was make her distance herself from me. I even started to think that if she wouldn’t fix this problem then I would have to cut ties with her completely. Maybe that was for the best.
In my prayers and pleading for my sister’s soul, you know what I heard the Lord say to me?
He said, “Kate, you are wrong. You need to fix your attitude and your thinking. You are handling this the wrong way. My ways are of love. All you need to do is love her. She is mine as much as you are.”
BAM! That dreaded 2 by 4 from God.
Where do I go now?
Clearly, I was being told that this was MY problem. A heart issue. So, I prayed for me; that I could be love like Jesus intended. Also, that I would come to understand why I was really struggling with this change in my life.
Clinging to the love I had for my little sister was easy. I made a secret promise to her that I would never cut her out of my life. I would never turn my back on her. I would love ‘My Baby’ as I have since the day our mom put her in my arms.
Kelly and I slowly found our way back to a normal sisterly relationship. Over time, God showed me that my actions in the beginning of this change were out of fear. This is not an excuse, but an admission that I let fear of the unknown control my feelings and my actions. When I should have taken her hand and been a resting place for her, I disgraced her and shamed her. Fear filled my head with ‘What If’ questions that just made me crazy with worry. Worry about what people would think of my family. Worry about what people would think of me. I was not at all rational in that fear.
My thinking quickly switched. In my understanding I conquered that fear. The ‘What If’ questions changed to ‘what would people think of a family that shunned their daughter/sister when they themselves have their own baggage’, ‘what kind of person would I be to turn my back on family’ and ‘what will I do if someone hurts my sister’. I found myself being protective and defensive of her and others in the gay and lesbian community. After all, at the end of the day, no matter what the differences are in how we live our lives, we are all human beings that deserve respect.
Eleven years later I know many people who are gay or lesbian and hope that the only thing they see from me is the love I have for them. Because it is truly all I have to give. Never again will words of condemnation come from my lips. Never again will I allow the fear of the unknown rule my life. If I don’t understand, I have a responsibility to ask, listen and love. Even after hearing, if I still don’t agree, my only actions and words should simply be love.
I am proud of the woman my sister is. She is kind, loving and strong. She is quick to find the good in people. She is loyal. She is forgiving. Do we always see things the same? Nope. And truth is, we probably never will, because we are definitely two different women. Never the less, my love and adoration for her has only grown more with each year that passes.
Sadly, the one thing that I never did was ask for her forgiveness. I know that she has and that my actions since that rough patch over a decade ago has spoken of how sorry I am; how much I have changed for the better. But an apology shows respect, so here it is.
Kelly, My Baby, my little sister, I am truly sorry for not supporting you in what had to have been one of the scariest times in your life. You are simple one of the most beautiful people I know. You deserved a sister who showed you unconditional love and I let you down. I have learned so much about love and respect in my wrong actions. I make this vow to you today, no matter our differences or how upset I am with you, I will love you. I will never turn away from you or forsake you. I will protect you in my words and actions if others try to tear you down. I will pray for you daily; that your life is full of joy and love, kindness and grace. Because, sister dear, you only deserve the very best.