February, 2024 – IT’S LOVE MONTH! (No Regrets)

February, 2024 – IT’S LOVE MONTH! (No Regrets)

I can never enter the month of February without thinking about ‘love’!  Even if it weren’t for the copious greeting cards in our faces both online and in stores – all the candy directed towards Valentine’s Day – clothing on display with hearts and ‘I love you’ – ads for the ‘Sweet Day’ in the media – celebrations planned for everything from schools to ‘lovers’, I would still think of ‘love’.  I remember every year in elementary school, Valentine’s Day was the best day ever.  We got to decorate a box making it the most beautiful of all the classroom’s, making out a card for our teacher and each kid in our room, receiving a card from each one, and topping it all off with wonderful sweets in the shape of hearts, or decorated with hearts.  I LOVE the memories of all those Valentine’s Days!!

However, I am writing about a different kind of ‘love’ this time.  It has to do with sibling-love and my relationship with my own.  It makes me so sad when I learn of grown-up brothers and sisters not getting along – some not even having spoken in years!  That is devastating!  It breaks my heart!!  I know of several, personally, who want nothing, not only to do with their siblings, but also with their parents.  Hurts do occur – but so does forgiveness . . . !

My childhood with my sister and brothers was not perfect.  One reason was because there were so many years between the births of the first three of us.  My first brother was four years older than I giving us absolutely nothing in common except that we were blood related.  Also, he was such a goody-two-shoes, and that really ‘got my goat’ because I wasn’t!  I remember yelling at him once as he was going upstairs to the bedroom level, “I’ll be so glad when you leave!!”  (It was only 6 months or so before he would graduate from high school and be leaving to go away to a university.)  He spun around and shouted back at me, “I’ll be so glad, too!!”  Really, that’s the only words I ever remember of having with him when we were young.  But they were powerful enough for me to still remember them.

As we went on in life, married, got jobs, and had children, we began to have more in common.  And it stayed that way for most of our lives.  Until! – he committed an act that I thought I would never be able to forgive.  To make a long story short – he didn’t make the trip (GA to ME) to our mother’s funeral – for whatever reason.  I never really did find out . . .  It was not only such an egregious, unthinkable act, but it was also embarrassing to explain his absence at the funeral.  It took two years for me to be able to reach out to him on any level.

My church, at the time, held a ‘Forgiveness Service’ which also included surrounding local churches.  After a more thorough explanation of the service, prayer, and a couple of appropriate worship songs, we were encouraged to form into small groups, and preferably not with people from our own church.  I sat with some lovely people at the back of the church on the right-hand side – the lights were turned low as we introduced ourselves.  As a gentleman began to pray, I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit surrounding me, filling me that I was to go no longer without forgiving my brother.  And I did!  What a release I felt within my spirit! – what a joy – what a peace!!  So to make a long story even shorter, we went on to enjoy each other’s company with never a mention of his offence to me and my siblings (as we took it).  The last time I saw him, I put my arms around him and held him – as he did me – and said, “I LOVE you!!”  To which he said with ‘tears in his heart’, “I love YOU, Dawn”.     So when he passed – no regrets!

Each time before leaving for Romania, I would call my siblings.  We always ended our conversations with “I love you”.  Besides my younger brother being five years younger than I and our having nothing in common, he was a ‘rough-around-the edges’ ‘mountain man’ – made a lot of wrong life-choices which ended up with my being at odds with him from time to time.  I mean he made REALLY bad life-choices!!  After he passed, I wished I had just loved him – not having been so upset with him at times.  I ‘confessed’ this to my sister after he passed, and in her loving, full of mercy way, she replied, “Well, he gave us a lot to be upset about”.  With that said, after he made an amazing life choice accepting Christ as his Savior and foregoing his former lifestyle, we had so many wonderful times together.  We did duets in my concerts from time to time.  We jumped on his HOG and would take off for the day down the coast of Maine to celebrate our birthdays together.  It was a joy to stop at the first point on the rugged coast, sit at a picnic table and share with each other what the Lord had done for us in the past year.  Then, we would continue down the coast and stop at a fabulous seafood restaurant.  I love those memories!  I never realized it would be the last time I would speak with my brother on this earth, but my call to him before leaving for RO that one particular time was, “I love you” – and his response to me was, “I love you, dearly! “ And when he passed – no regrets . . .

I called her my Beautiful, Blondie, Blue-Eyed Sister – and she was so beautiful!  But not only did we look totally different and have different coloring, our natures and personalities were about as different as you could get!  We absolutely never criticized or put down each other (actually, we had nothing but praise and admiration for each other), but we were so opposite! – from our taste in clothing and coloring, to music, to foods, to you-name-it.  But, our greatest common denominator – because of our love for Jesus – was LOVE!!  We absolutely adored each other!!  So, saying, “I love you” to each other was common especially in our grown-up years.  My last words to this godly, talented, kind-beyond-measure sister were “I love you”.  And she would answer in a rasp towards the end of her life, “I love you”.  And then, finally in just a mere whisper, “I love you”.   Once again – no regrets.

I realize that it takes two in a forgiveness process.  I approached a couple in my church years ago, telling them I had forgiven them for critical words they had used against me to another – that that had had created hard feelings in me towards them, and would they please forgive me.  I expected in return, ‘oh, we’re so sorry, please forgive us!’  But they just looked at me and turned away.  That’s okay.  Well, not really, but I had done what I was supposed to do, and that was okay!   That was good.  I had been freed from the prison into which I had put myself.  The release in my spirit was so cleansing – and freeing.

If we can realize how much we are hurting ourselves by not forgiving – that it can also begin to hurt us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  And not only that, but we are crushing the One Who lives within us.  “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  – Ephesians 4:30-32   In my mind, this is a directive, not a suggestion.  God knew we would be so much happier if we didn’t carry grievances against others – against the precious Holy Spirit.  I would encourage you – if there is a sibling, or anyone in your life toward whom you hold a hard/harsh feeling, take the matter to the foot of the Cross first to our Lord, and follow His leading to rid you of having to miss inner peace, to rid you of your grieving the Holy Spirit, to rid you of the barrier between you and the Triune God, and to release you from a bondage than can only cripple your walk with Christ.  And even though the one you forgive does not reciprocate, you have done what you need to do giving you a spirit of ‘no regrets’!

“Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”” – Matthew 18:21,22