This is the final post (for now) in the series on sibling relationships. Joey is pictured here with his wife, Lauren, and our number eleven, Amelia. I’ve been sensitive to the kids putting Benny and me in only a good light out of a desire to honor us. So i’ve edited their posts accordingly. But Joey told me I couldn’t edit his post. I admit it; it brought tears to my eyes. I’m grateful to God for His grace in the lives of two young people who started having kids in the 70’s and had no clue what we were doing…He’s been faithful.
When Mom asked us if we would want to contribute to her series on fostering sibling relationships, there were a few things that naturally sprang to mind. Homeschooling came first, then sports. Mom and Dad drove around most of Virginia, DC, and Maryland watching each of us play basketball; but they also put a court in our back yard to help make our house the place all our friends wanted to be. Then there was football, street hockey and 6 on 6 soccer with the neighborhood kids. 6 on 6 soccer in a yard about 15 yards long and 10 yards wide. Oh, and epic games of baseball, played with a tennis ball; the kind of game where if you got a couple men on base you had to go back to bat again, so there were “ghost” runners.
A few other things came to mind, most of which have already been touched on. The more I thought about it, though, the more clear it became to me that there was actually one particular thing about the way that mom and dad parented us kids that contributed to our relationships to this day.
They parented with a mission and we always knew what the mission was. Mom and Dad trained us to be respectful, obey them and others in charge, write thank you notes for birthday presents and clean up after dinner. But their primary mission wasn’t obedient and polite kids. Their mission was to bring glory to God. Since the church is the means God chose to display His glory, we knew that glorifying God meant giving our lives to the church. This fostered a sense of teamwork and loyalty that goes beyond sharing the same name and simply growing up together.
Proximity and a shared mission are probably the two biggest ways people grow close relationally. Siblings most always have the former, at least initially, but they should also have the latter. We did, and it permeated everything about our lives…and I think that fact is the greatest reason why we grew and remain so close. Let me give some examples of what this looked like growing up.
In 1992 Fairfax Covenant Church, now Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax, was fund raising in an attempt to purchase property to build a facility. It was called Challenge ’92. Even though I was only 7 years old I can remember the feeling of camaraderie, not just with my siblings, but the entire church. I remember going to the church-wide garage sale that took up an entire parking lot at a school. I remember doing lemonade stands, selling baseball and basketball cards to neighborhood kids, and finding whatever way I could to fill my huge, pink, plastic piggy bank. I remember getting progressively more nervous as the deadline approached for “Miracle Sunday.” I’ll remember that day until I die.
When dad walked onto the stage to announce the offering amount my heart was in my throat. When the room erupted I ran around in little circles yelling. It was awesome. I won’t go into the specifics here of the amount needed, and why it was such a miracle that the money was raised in time, but it was amazing.
That experience helped grow my love for the church. It helped build a bond with my siblings because we were teaming up on something bigger than ourselves — something even more important than basketball. This is easy to see in an example that dramatic. But what Mom and Dad were so good at was teaching us that we were on the mission 24/7.
I’ve told the story to folks before of being at a birthday sleepover when I was 11 and didn’t stand up for a kid who we all thought had fallen asleep while guys mocked him. Turns out he did hear the mean comments and was understandably devastated. Mom and Dad heard learned about what happened. I was disciplined pretty good (yes, my parents spanked us) and grounded from a basketball game (the most horrifying punishment). Some might say their response to my cowardice was harsh. That it was not showing “grace.” But I knew otherwise.
I understood that discipline is a means of grace. I knew that what I had done was wrong, not just because it was an act of cowardice but because I had allowed another believer to be slandered and maligned, which creates discord and rivalry, which hinders the mission of the church bringing glory to God. And yes, my parents articulated that to me at 11 and I understood and agreed. I still agree to this day.
As we grew older, this sense of mission and a desire to serve the church has remained and informs our relationships. It’s why we all decided to participate with them in a new church plant in Lake Nona last January. Not that we couldn’t have participated in the mission while staying at our former church, or that we all have to be at the same church forever (Josh and Jesse both have been members of other churches at various times.) But this was something new; a way we hadn’t been able to serve together before. It was going to force us to work harder, give up more time, spend a lot more gas money, and serve in areas we never had before. Who would I rather do that with than the mom and dad who taught trained me to love God’s church, and siblings who I’ve been on a mission with for as long as I can remember?
My daughter is almost two, and we are hoping for 6 or 7 more (just kidding Baby Love…just 5.) I want Amelia to have a close relationship with any siblings she ends up with. I want her to have what I have. But mainly I want her to love God, know Christ, and love the things that He loves. As kids, we always knew Mom and Dad cared more about our spiritual state than anything. We knew they cared about us loving the same things they loved because they loved the same things God loves. We bought into the mission because we saw them living it. That mission is the reason we are close.
So with my daughter that’s where it starts, too. It doesn’t start with teaching her that family comes first or that blood is thicker than water. It isn’t about raising a daughter that loves her parents and siblings.
It’s about raising a kid who hungers for God.
Hey, mom and dad you should…oh wait.