Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry can be a nasty, destructive force. 

Recently I have been praying a lot for Cole regarding this.  Being only 23 months younger than his older brother I worry Cole will end up in Grayden's shadow more often than not.  Already I have noticed Cole struggling to keep up with his brother's skills and accomplishments.  At this point, they enjoy similar things and his brother is usually better, faster, stronger, and smarter. 

Grayden scores lots of goals on his soccer team, Cole doesn't score any.  Grayden wins in monopoly (and most other games) every time they play.  Grayden can stuff Cole whenever he wants when they play basketball.  Grayden was swimming like a fish by 5, Cole is still struggling to stay afloat.  Grayden was riding his bike without training wheels by 5, Cole is just getting used to pedaling.  Cole's friends that are closer to his age want to hang with Grayden sometimes more than Cole.  Grayden communicates better with people, while Cole still struggles to get out what he wants to say (a result of ear infections stifling his ability to talk before the age of 3). 

Sooner or later this will get old for Cole.  I worry he will shut down and grow discouraged.  And I fear my two boys will develop jealousy toward one another, sparking an unhealthy dose of sibling rivalry that could destroy their relationship.

There are so many Biblical accounts of sibling rivalry fueled by jealousy that ultimately destroyed relationships.  Cain killed his brother Abel out of anger and jealousy.  Jacob stole his brother Esau's birthright out of jealousy and a spirit of entitlement.  Leah was cast aside by Jacob for her younger, and more beautiful, sister Rachel.  I can only imagine what jealousy did to their relationship.  Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery because of jealousy.  Countless brothers fought over kingship to the point of death during the divided kingdom years.

I am not naïve to think that my boys will never rival each other.  Nor that they won't have moments of jealousy.  I had two siblings and I can remember rivaling and being jealous of each other.  Yet those moments of jealousy I might have had or those times of rivalry never took root nor became a destructive means to ruin our relationships.  To this day I sincerely love my brother and sister.  I am genuinely full of joy when they excel and achieve, even when I don't. 

Me, my sister Ruth, and brother Eric
I've spent a lot of time lately asking myself what it was that protected me from having a jealous and unhealthy rivalry with my siblings.  While my parents' equal and unique way of loving each of us individually had to have played a great part in protecting me, I also know that my brother, sister and I shared a common ground that ultimately served as a great wing of protection over our relationship.  And that common ground was (and is) Jesus.

While each of us have had different journeys of faith, we all remained steadfast in trusting Jesus.  While imperfect, together we had the same goal: to live lives that glorified Him.  My brother and sister were (and are) better than me in a lot of things, but it never became a source of division because Jesus unified us.  We were imperfect in our love toward each other, but we were covered by grace.  Our love for each other grew out of our love for Jesus.  He taught us to rejoice with each other, to forgive one another, to encourage one another, and to protect one another.  By the grace of God in our lives, jealousy and sibling rivalry never wreaked havoc on our relationship. 

I cannot express how thankful I am to Jesus for my siblings.  I cherish their friendships above most.  This is no coincidence nor did it happen accidentally.  I firmly believe that as we individually walked with Jesus, He shepherded our brother-sister relationships and protected us from jealousy.  The enemy never got a foothold because Jesus was our common ground. 

I know Cole and Grayden will compete with each other.  I know one will always be better than the other at something.  I know they will hurt each other.  I know they will have twinges of jealousy toward one another.  But my hope and prayer is that Jesus will trump all of that and that they will find common ground AND UNITY in Him.

The New Testament solidifies over and over again the importance of unity among believers.  Unity with Jesus as the common ground. 

Romans 15:5-6 reads,
"May the God who give endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Philippians 2:1-2 reads,
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."

These verses are my heart's prayer for Grayden and Cole!

Will you join me today and let's pray for our children's relationships with their siblings (and cousins, friends, etc).  Let's pray that jealousy and rivalry will never take a destructive root in their relationships.  Let's pray that Jesus will be the common ground that unifies them together in brotherly/sisterly love.

As my kids follow after You, may You give them a spirit of unity so that with one heart and one mouth they may glorify You.  I pray they would be like-minded having Your love.  I pray that You would be their common ground.  May they be one in spirit and purpose as they follow after You.  Protect them from sibling rivalry that breeds jealousy and hatred.  Keep their hearts tender toward each other with a love like Yours. 

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