I watched a silly movie this weekend called Center Stage: Turn it Up. It was about a young dancer from Detroit named Kate who’s trying to get into a prestigious dance academy in New York. Of course, it’s not that easy, and when she doesn’t get in she decides to give up and move back home.
But when her little sister Bella comes to visit, she encourages Kate to try out for an open audition and – spoiler alert – she gets the lead part in a big production. There’s some boyfriend drama throughout the movie, too, but it’s the little sister who deserves the credit for pushing and prodding her big sis to be a big success.
As a big sister, this resonates with me. I know what it’s like to have someone look up to me and truly believe that I can do anything and be anything I want. Like in the movie, I think my little sisters and brother deserve a lot of credit for pushing me to be who I am today.
But I got to thinking – do these life lessons as a big sister have an application to my spiritual walk with God? I think so!
The Bible frequently refers to believers as being members of the same spiritual family.
Mark 3:32-35, NKJ And a multitude was sitting around Him [Jesus]; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
Within that spiritual family, we are all “middle children” because there are always people around us who are more mature in the faith (our “big brothers and sisters”) and those who are less mature (our “little brothers and sisters”).
We are taught to love all our brothers and sisters.
1 John 4:21, NKJ And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
We also know that should we respect and learn from those who are more mature in the faith than we are. You may have heard these people referred to as “spiritual fathers,” but we could just as well use the term “big brother” or “big sister.”
But what about those who are younger in the faith? Surely, we shouldn’t look down on them because they’re not as mature as we are. You wouldn’t expect a 4-year old to know how to act in a swanky dinner party, would you? No, because that’s beyond his years. Just like in the natural world, spiritual maturity is a process that takes time and builds on a person’s experiences.
Paul (a spiritual big brother if there ever was one) teaches us in Ephesians that the church should support all its members, lovingly helping one another to grow in maturity so that we might mirror Jesus:
Ephesians 4:11-16, NAS (emphasis mine) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Lessons from a Big Sister
So, if we’re all spiritual brothers and sisters, what can we learn from our natural siblings? I’d say quite a lot.
Here’s a list of seven lessons I’ve learned being a big sis (aka a “Big”). I’ve added notes on how we might apply these lessons to our spiritual lives, specifically with how we interact with those less mature (aka our “Littles”).
- Lesson Learned – You don’t get to choose if or when you’ll have Littles. Much to your chagrin, this is totally up to your parents.
Spiritual Application – God picks the people in your life, whether they’re Littles or Bigs. Trust that He has His reasons.
- Lesson Learned – No matter how cute they are, or how much you train them, Littles are not dolls or pets. They have a mind of their own and they will do what they want when they want.
Spiritual Application – Ditto.
- Lesson Learned – Littles are, by definition, younger and less mature than you. They cannot go to school or work with you or hang out late with your friends. They may not understand everything you say, and they may actually embarrass you from time to time. In short, they may not be cool like you.
Spiritual Application – Littles are less mature than you, so they may not always act in a way that you consider “proper” or “appropriate.” That’s alright; they’re just not there yet.
- Lesson Learned – Due to reasons stated in number 2 and 3 above, Littles may eventually tear up your favorite shirt / game / computer / phone / entire room. No matter what, your parents will not allow you to sell them through a newspaper ad, give them away to your neighbors, or lock them out of the house.
Spiritual Application – Littles may do things that hurt you, themselves, or others, but they are still your Littles. Remember number 1 above: God put them in your life for a reason.
- Lesson Learned – For some reason, your Littles may think you can do anything from winning the spelling bee to becoming the youngest millionaire in state history. They may also think that you are perfect and can do no wrong.
Spiritual Application – Littles can look up to you to the point of idolizing you. Beware of this. Only through your humility and transparency can you help set them straight and refocus them on the One who is really perfect, Jesus.
- Lesson Learned – Depending on age and hormone levels, your Littles may hate you and think that you can do nothing right. This seems to contradict with 5 above – which it does – but somehow these two phenomena can seem to occur simultaneously. Usually, space and time help to resolve the problem.
Spiritual Application – Littles can become frustrated with themselves, you, God, and life in general. Don’t take it personally. Give them some space and let them seek direction from the one true Guide, the Holy Spirit.
- Lesson Learned – Eventually, your Littles will grow up, go to school, move out, and have families of their own – perhaps even sooner than you. When this happens, you’ll need to adjust to the way you relate with them. In some aspects they may be your equal, but in others they may have moved past you. You’ll have to humble yourself so you can appreciate all they have to offer.
Spiritual Application – A Little may mature faster than you in some areas. Humble yourself so you can appreciate the knowledge and experiences they can share with you. Above all else, resist the urge to compare yourself to them, which can lead to frustration and envy.
The Parent Lesson
As we grow up, we learn that Mom and Dad are the ones in control. They’re the ones carrying the burden of the really hard stuff like bills, putting food on the table, and making sure everyone in the family has everything they need. We know that we can make mistakes because our parents love us no matter what and will be there for us.
Isn’t that why God refers to Himself as our spiritual Father? Aren’t these the lessons He wants us to understand and apply to our relationship with Him? Whether we’re the Big or the Little, we should rest in the knowledge that God has it all under control; He’s orchestrating our very steps; and He’s calling us to grow and mature in our relationship with Him.
Romans 8:28, NAS And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Pretty cool, huh? Now, go call your brothers and sisters and say thanks. I’m sure they deserve it.
[A special thanks to Madeline, Janet, and Ridge – my Littles – for always pushing me to be a better person.]