12. being or considered a sister; related by or as if by sisterhood: sister ships.
13. having a close relationship with another because of shared interests, problems, or the like.
I have been undeniably blessed by precious women in my life. Some close family, some lived before my time, some have rubbed me hard smoothing away jagged edges, some young, some old, some who know my heart deeply and still love me, some I've never met. But all sharing a common relation, fellowship birthed from the blood of Jesus. Sweet family, a gift. These women have so energized my Christian walk I just had to introduce some of them to you. (I hope you will post a comment and tell me about the women who have blessed your life.)
This week's sister:
I met Jennifer four years ago and I had no idea at the time that she would change my life. To be honest, at the time she unnerved me just a bit. Not so any more, Jennifer is my sister. As a matter of fact she has often asked me if I am her sister, to which I heartily agree. Jennifer was born with Down syndrome, and if that wasn't enough, as a young woman she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I remember wondering at the time, "God why was that necessary, isn't Down syndrome plenty, her life had to get worse?" So, over time, he showed me why.
For some reason Jennifer liked me, so at church on Sunday's, or other gatherings, she often followed me around. I didn't mind too much and had a soft spot for her. One Sunday she was particularly clingy, I excused myself to go to the restroom, telling her I would be right back. A couple of minutes later Jennifer was standing outside of the bathroom stall, keeping me company, it was a cozy conversation. Some things you just have to laugh about!
One Monday, not long after the bathroom incident, I was thinking about Jennifer. The thought came to me that although Jennifer's body, and perhaps even mind, are diseased, her spirit is not. I asked God, "does that mean her spirit is confined by her body but able to connect with you?" And then I asked the most important question yet. "God will you help me to see her the way you do, will you help me to connect to her spirit? Show me what you see." And he did. I began to feel a strong love for Jennifer, I wanted to protect and include her. I wanted to honor her as an adult and not treat her as a child. I wanted to know her, as best I could.
God led me to the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 about the body, a passage I had never completely understood. Sure I understood the analogy of the church being one body made up of many parts. It was this concept I had never understood: "But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be...those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."
God had answered my why. Jennifer, and the specific needs that come with her, had been placed in the church body as much for it's health as for hers. Her very presence was an opportunity for us to see her, to love her like Jesus, we would be better for it. I never saw anyone be rude or unkind to Jennifer, but very few people treated her as indispensable, with special honor and modest protection. Jennifer has a role to play in the body that is indispensable, she tethers us to God's compassionate heart, her life insists we use God vision, she forces us to offer mother bear protection. "God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." In many ways I've come to view Jennifer as more important than the "important" people.
When God opened my heart to really see Jennifer, to push past the barrier of her body and connect to her spirit, I found a sister. I know Jennifer loves me and I love her, and because I was looking I've seen her beauty. My family has since moved away and I miss Jennifer but she is someone I will never forget. Jennifer is a woman that inspires me, God has used her to teach me about his great heart and I'm honored.
How do you respond when you meet someone with special needs or challenges? I understand it can be uncomfortable but I hope you will take the opportunity to look past their limitations and into their heart. Ask God to show you their beauty, but don't expect to see it unless you believe it exists. I would love to hear from you! Who is someone that has unexpectedly inspired you?