I didn’t grow up having a sister. My brother is great (and I can say that now that we’re grownups!), but there’s something about watching sisters that has always made my heart yearn. You can see their shorthand–in language or facial expression–that ends in a knowing giggle, even though no one else understands the joke.
But God did not make a mistake or withhold a good gift from me by not giving me a blood sister:
But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50, emphasis mine)
To all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13, emphasis mine)
If all believers are children of God, then ALL believers are my brothers and sisters. I have more sisters than I could possibly know in the short time I have on this planet!
This also means that I have sisters who have already gone on before me. They lived lives of faithfulness and little-by-little sanctification–and luckily for us, some of them wrote about their lives or were written about.
Gladys Aylward is one of my sisters. She had a burning heart for China and worked tirelessly to get there to do missionary work–even after she flunked out of Bible/missionary school.
My sister Gladys prayed in a moment of trouble and saw God’s certain and providential answer–in that very moment and throughout her life in less immediate but still impactful ways. Her example reminds me to pray without ceasing.
My sister Gladys showed me what obedience looks like when it feels pointless and stupid–and that God readies the obedient for his purposes.
My sister Gladys reminded me to sing hymns during tough times. And since my tough times are infinitely easier than leading a hundred children over a war-infested mountain, surely I can find the gumption to sing.
My sister Gladys taught me that God uses unlikely people and equips them where he calls them.
My sister Gladys is a sober reminder that God calls many of his people to hard circumstances I can’t even fathom–and that I should be praying for my sisters and brothers around the world in those situations.
It was so sweet to share this story with my children. To ask at every turn, “Guys, was this a coincidence that everything just happened to line up exactly to provide for Gladys’s need in this moment?”
“Nooooooooooooo,” came their resounding voices. My sister Gladys is helping to disciple my children, giving them a picture of the Lord’s continual provision for his people, even though she’s not here anymore. Praise God!