The moment when I realized that I probably wouldn’t save her in the event of an emergency was the moment that I realized that my pain was too deep and my disdain was too strong.
When I recall all of the people who have hurt or wronged me over the years, none of them have affected me as much as my oldest niece. I am truly ashamed to say that the pain that I endured from her mother’s years of manipulation and abuse, have caused me to approach my niece with a heightened level of caution, fully aware that in this case, the apple did not fall too far from the tree. My eldest niece behaves, manipulates, and emotionally abuses just like her mother, my eldest sister. In fact, at almost 17 years old, my niece embodies all of the negative qualities that my sister perfected over the course of her almost 53 years on earth. Both will lie, deceive, and steal in order to get whatever they need, with no regard to others or accountability for self… and with a gleeful look of ignorance and innocence upon their face.
But my sister has a debilitating disease!
Growing up in the shadow of a sibling with a disease is like trying to shine in the gravitating orbit of the sun. Plans were often rearranged and consideration only given to the needs of my sister because she has Sickle Cell Disease. In the 53 years that my mother has been a parent, she has done everything from a place of guilt or obligation, masquerading as love. I’m so sure others perceive my mother’s actions as doting gifts of a loving mother, but what the eyes cannot see is the guilt that looms within my mother. Guilt that causes her to continuously feel responsible for everything that has happened in our lives and guilt that makes her believe that even now that we are all grown, she must still bend to our every need.
It is because of that guilt that I believe my mother blindly decided to open her newly purchased home doors to my niece and her dog when my sister decided that she could no longer rear her alone in Florida. Per her usual, my mother dropped everything and flew to my sister’s aid, not considering the impact of her actions; not realizing that she was not capable of rearing a rebellious and unruly almost 17-year-old girl. Guilt, not love, blinded my mother from the fact that my niece had physically and figuratively destroyed the home that my sister had labored over for so many years. My niece has experienced trauma, similar to what we all had endured, but she was raised in a home that feared accountability more than it feared the Lord so healing never came her way. My sister and my niece are the walking definition of “hurt people, hurt people”, cutting and bleeding upon every unsuspecting person who dares come their way.
But my sister has a debilitating disease so when she calls, people answer… unknowingly getting sucked into the whirlwind of destruction that is my sister and her child.
The girl is a mess!
Since the day my niece has arrived, she and her dog have physically destroyed my mother’s home that she just purchased in July. Apparently, my niece has no responsibilities or chores at home because she does not know how to cook or clean… but she does know how to order from Amazon. Her dog has urinated and pooped on the floor and carpet more times than I can count, destroying hundreds of dollars spent on furnishing this home. Additionally, my niece has been physically abusive towards my mother several times AND she ran away from home once, all of which prompted a total of six visits from the sheriff’s department here in our county. As all of this occurs, her mother is nowhere to be found (because she is sick and needs to tend to herself), placing an undue physical, financial, and emotional burden on my 68 year old mother.
On top of all of that at home, my niece is a student at the high school where I work. When she first transferred there, I attempted to introduce her to respectable peers who would be a good influence on her life. Instead, my niece opted to hang with peers who are repeating their freshman year of high school… for the second or third time. My niece roams the halls during class, yielding disciplinary action from the school administrations and resulting in failing grades in all four of her classes. Considering the fact that we have 24 academic days left in the school year, it seems mathematically impossible for my niece to redeem herself and her grades, considering that her highest current grade is a 26%.
As someone who studied and battled mental health issues, I wholly recognize that my niece is in a bad way, desperately in need of saving, but let’s just be honest- she is a mess!
I wrestled all week long. Every night for the past week, I kept waking up in the middle of the night around the same time. Based on my previous research, I knew exactly what was happening- God wanted to talk to me. While every hour of the day is “His hour”, there is something powerful about the 3-5am mark and like clockwork, God kept waking me up so that I could talk to Him.
I felt God’s nudge and I am ashamed to say that I did not rise to the occasion the way He had intended. I knew what He wanted but it was so much easier for me to do my own quick prayer, instead of truly waging in the spirit for my situation. You see, while my niece is a mess and her mother- my sister- is also a mess, I know what God has called me to do and I was actively choosing defiance over obedience because my humanity just couldn’t take her drama anymore.
Beloved, thank you so much for hanging in there as I set the scene for God’s great victory in my life… and yours. As I get ready to wrap it up, I want you to turn to the book of Jonah in the Bible and read chapters 1-3. I promise you, they are short chapters but well worth the read. Once you finish, come back here to finish up.
Here’s the thing, I know that God has called me to save others, starting with my own family members, but much like Jonah, in my humanity, I don’t want God’s grace to extend to them. There it is. There’s the painful truth. Because of how my sister and my niece have treated those around them, a part of me wants God to withhold His favor, grace, and mercy and instead use them on someone who is kind or has a heart for Him. I know you are thinking, “what kind of minister thinks that way?”… Beloved, a hurting heart can say and think the harshest things, especially when that heart turns away from God.
In my quest to run from God’s message, I was inadvertently running from God, too. As I tried to hide from the grace that He wanted to extend to others through me, I was running from His love and grace that He has for me. The messed up part is that my running from God didn’t just hurt my niece and my family… it hurt me, too.
Beloved, today is the first day of May and this month is a beautiful reminder of so many things for me. On Wednesday as I prayerfully stand to deliver God’s word at Holy Communion service, I must pause to recognize that it will be my sister’s 53rd birthday. And then on Friday, my niece (this particular niece, that is, because I do have 3 nieces) will turn 17 years old. My graduation is on the 13th and Mother’s Day is on the 14th. All month long, celebrations and jubilee will flow in abundance… and it all begins today.
Today I am falling on my knees in repentance for how I thought, felt, and acted as it pertains to my niece and sister. No one is perfect- not them and definitely not me- but I do know better. I know that just as God worked through others to get me before His presence, He wants to work through me to get my family before His presence. Yet, Beloved, I’ll be honest, the hardest pain to heal from is the pain that comes from those that you love. I don’t say that as a justification but as a caution to your growth and development in the Lord. Please know that I genuinely wish no harm to anyone- not even those who hurt me- but sometimes the gaping wounds speak louder than the healed scars in my life.
Also understand this, Beloved, I intentionally share the most Honest, Open, and Transparent (shout out to The Real Precious on YouTube!) version of myself so that you can understand the depths to which God will go to save His beloved children. And trust, I am so glad that God’s grace reaches far deeper than you or I can see! Truthfully and authentically, I feel like if I were perfect or only shared the good things, you would know that God’s grace can save us from everything… even all of the ugly things.