I am the 4th of 5 kids, which if you think about it makes me next to last. I have a little sister, an older sister and two older brothers. The fact that my little sister and I are adopted never really mattered. We were always family.
Just like any family, the sibs will squabble. My oldest brother was grown and in Vietnam by the time I started remembering things, my older sister was in the army, but my other older brother was around quite a bit. He pretty much tortured me a lot. I have always had a thing with heights. He would hold me over railings, balconies, out windows, and he’d say, “Don’t squirm so much I might drop you!” Which would make me squirm even more. But he never dropped me. Not that I remember anyway.
The sibling I interacted most with was my little sister. For so long, it was me and her against everything. No room to go into it here, but when I was 5 and she was 1, many, many times we were alone for days at a time. I learned not to butter the bread before putting it in a toaster, and how to change a diaper, and she learned not to mess with me when Sesame Street was on.
We made it past all that, and as teens she learned what buttons to push to make me angry and even jealous. For many years, I believed that my parents didn’t love me, that they only took me because they had to to get my sister. I was the one always in trouble, and nothing she did, no matter how wrong, ever resulted in punishment. Sometimes I even got in trouble for things she did! At least, that’s what I believed. Now, all these years later, I know it’s a lie, and that the enemy used that lie to try and destroy me, to keep me from fulfilling God’s design for my life.
This reminds me of a story from the bible, about two siblings. Brothers. Their names were Cain and Abel. Check out the story in Genesis 4. Cain was the firstborn, and there may have been others between him and Abel. The bible doesn’t say, but it does speak of that same spirit of jealousy that developed in Cain’s heart, and it tells the story of how that spirit destroyed people’s lives.
Cain was a farmer, and I bet he was the proud type of farmer. You see them a lot in Lifetime movies. The ground is hard, it won’t rain, but that old farmer is still out there plowing and planting and trying to get the harvest that will pay off that new John Deere. Abel was a shepherd boy, like so many heros of the bible. Humble, hardworking, innocent.
Out of Abel’s abundance, he recognized his condition before the Lord God, and he brought the best he had as a sacrifice. The bible says he brought the fat portions, the portions that would make the most smoke. He wanted God to see his atoning sacrifice. He wanted God to smell the blood and the burning of the meat, so that God himself might look down on him and extend grace and acceptance.
Cain on the other hand, well, he probably saw what was going on with Abel, and he hastily gathered up some of the weird carrots and potatoes. You know, the ones at the bottom that you always save til last because they look funny? But you never use them you just throw them out and buy more. And maybe some kale, because seriously, it’s kale.
So, basically when Cain got around to it, he brought God some leftovers that he had no intention of using anyway, and he offered it to God. And God saw both of their hearts in that moment and he had regard for the one, but for the other, not so much. Cain was furiously jealous, but not murderously so. Not yet anyway.
God saw what was going on, and asked Cain a pretty simple question – “What are you so mad about?”
Don’t you think Cain had seen these types of sacrifices before? Don’t you think Cain knew what was right? He did. He knew the right thing, but his eyes were blinded by the lie that it wouldn’t matter anyway – “everyone loves Abel. He’s the golden boy! Can do no wrong, that kid.” Why even try?
“What are you so mad about Cain?” He’s mad because You cursed the ground, because his work is backbreaking. It’s a daily grind with no relief in sight. Once you’re a farmer, that’s pretty much it. No way out. And he’s thinking, “You made me for this? This is Your big plan for me? I want no part of it! I didn’t ask for this! And look at him over there, the chosen one, the beloved, mamma’s boy.”
And Cain’s jealousy became unbearable, and he looked at Abel, shook his fist at God and shouted, “You want blood! Take his!” And Cain murdered his baby brother in a fit of rage, because of a lie.
I fell for that lie. I bought it – I was all in. I saw the success of those around me, and I considered myself to be way better than them. Funnier, smarter, better speaker, better student. And in a lot of cases I was all those things and more. I was driven to succeed, but it eluded me because of my jealousy. I learned to rely on myself instead of God because He wasn’t going to show up anyway.
And in a fit of jealous rage, I lost everything. My ministry, my life, my future. For 4 years I wallowed in self pity. I turned my back on God because he loved the sacrifice of others more than mine. Then, that one little piece of me that was Him that didn’t die started breathing again. Just dry, shallow, ragged breaths at first. Then, over time, in fits and starts, my heart started beating again, my spirit became alive again, I remembered what it was to hope. And God asked me, “what do you have to be mad about? I love you and I made you for a reason. Now get up and go!”
So here I am, learning a whole new way of seeing things. God is not who I thought He was. He is more than my words will ever say, but I still have to try to say them! He is bigger than I will ever know, but I still have to try to know Him! He is more powerful, more beautiful, more loving, more kind than my mind can ever understand. The depth of His love and mercy puts me on my knees because I don’t deserve it, but He sacrificed so much more than any of us can know or understand and because of it I live! I know the lie and I know the truth and sometimes they get all confused in my head, but when they do, there He is!
My other brothers and sisters are doing great. We recently lost my dad. He was such a great man, and it still hurts. I know where he is though, and I know, and have known for some time, that he loved me, and was proud of me. It makes me happy to know that. But you know what makes me alive with hope? My Father, my Creator, my God feels just the same way. And in case you’re wondering, He feels the same way about you, too.