My sister and I have had quite the relationship development. Being two years apart made for some interesting times growing up. For a while I was the younger annoying sister who just wanted to be as smart and cool as her older sister. Then, as we entered high school and began spending extended periods of time with just each other (driving to school 35 minutes each way) we started to bond as friends and not just sisters. We still fought like sisters sometimes, but not as much as before. Then came college. It was weird being friends, but not seeing each other all the time. I got to hear all about the fun pranks and games that happened in the dorm hallways. I remember being especially intrigued because Mandy had always been the rule follower. She also talked a lot about the Christian Fellowship group that she was going to and the amazing people she was friends with. Mandy's college time was great for me because I got to go and visit. I'd go to some classes and do the "college thing" with my older sister. I loved it.
It was on one of these visits that I believe my relationship with God changed forever. As I mentioned before, I grew up in a Christian home, went to Christian schools 3rd through 12th grade, went to youth group, etc., etc. When I was 10 years old I prayed to ask Christ to be my Savior and was baptized soon after that. However, I really didn't understand the relationship part of knowing God. I knew about the learning about God and the don't break these rules aspects. However, it wasn't until I visited Mandy at college and went to one of the Christian Fellowship group meetings that I saw what it meant to have a relationship with God. Here's what impacted me: 35-40 students, close to my age, getting together to worship God and be challenged to grow in their faith at a State University. They didn't do it because their parents were going or because it was required at school (as was my experience in high school) and it was not because it was the "cool" thing to do. Rather, it was because they (Mandy included) wanted to have a better relationship with God. That's when things started to make sense to me. That's when what I was learning about God started to impact my heart and change my actions. God stopped being just a rule giver, but I then understood the reason they were necessary. I didn't have a magical, mystical conversion but I will remember the night I received the understanding of what it meant to have a personal relationship with God for the rest of my life.
My big sister taught me by example that God is personal and that He wants a relationship with us. On Monday I read a passage in Romans that illustrates this beautifully. [Side Note: I feel like I should mention this again before I put the passage - I've been reading the Message bible for my own personal devotions. I know that it's not really a good idea to base all of your Bible study on this version since it is a paraphrase but it has made a huge impact on my devotional time and so it will most likely be the version quoted in my journal.] I'm just going to write the whole passage since I think it is so beautiful. Romans 9: 25-28:
"Hosea put it well. 'I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies, I'll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!" they're calling you "God's living children."
Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled "chosen of God," They'd be numbers still, not names, salvation comes by personal selection. God doesn't count us, he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus."Even now, it makes my heart swell to know that God loves ME and has called ME by name and wants me to know him for who he is as well. I praise HIM for bringing this understanding to my heart 11 years ago and for allowing my sister Mandy to have a part in it. Our relationship is just as strong as ever and I believe that it is because we are both "God's living children" and are growing in Him together. Thank you Lord for my sister Mandy!