Hearing the news of the death of Joan Fontain, I was so sad to hear that the sibling rivalry between her and her sister, Olivia de Haviland, also a film star, had persisted as a life-long feud.
‘Excuse me, but is she your sister or your friend?’ a child asked, when Mary came out to New Guinea to visit me. How thankful I was that I could assure her that she was my sister and my friend. But for God’s grace it could well have been otherwise.
Sibling rivalry is a common theme, in the Bible and in life. Cain’s jealousy of Abel led to the first murder, and the saga of Jacob and Esau, beginning in the womb, has repercussions even to this day.
How lonely is the child who has no brother or sister, and yet those born into a family often do not know how rich they are. I was third in a family of four. Such a secure place, and yet I was full of ‘if only’s. If I were the only boy; or the oldest girl, - and of course everyone knows the baby is special.
We need to bring assurance to our children, to let them know that each one of them is loved and special. It wasn’t until I learned that if no one else in the world had sinned, that Jesus would still have gone to the cross to save me, that I began to experience a deliverance in my life from this curse of jealousy.
Do we know the ten commandments? Most of us remember about not killing, swearing or committing adultery. I wasn’t guilty of any of those. But what about the last one; do not covet? In other words, Don’t be jealous.
Oh yes, I was jealous of my sister. 18 months older, she was always the pretty and the clever one. Or so I believed. Our parents thought it was bad for us to be praised, so if something good was said to me they sought to deflect it by referring to my sister.
Even in adulthood, I never knew my mother approved or was proud of me until I chanced to overheard her speaking on the telephone, but thank God we have a heavenly Father who delights to let us know that he is pleased with our endeavours, and who lavishes his love on us.
I adored my sister, but it was a love hate relationship, until I invited Jesus into my life. He showed me that my jealousy and sense of inferiority were sin, yes, SIN, because it meant self was on the throne of my heart instead of Him. And when jealousy reared its head, as it still can, I learned to claim the promise, ‘Jesus saves me now.’
Most of us know the story of Joseph, with his coat of many colours. No. 11 of 12 siblings, he had no need to be jealous. He was his father’s favourite, and it seems, God’s too. It is no wonder his brothers suffered from jealousy; a jealousy that could have ended in murder.
But if only….. if only they had gone to their father to ask if they too were loved, I hope he would have reassured them, and maybe suggested they needed to sort out some things; but I know if they had gone to God he would have told each one of them, ‘Of course I love you. I have a special purpose for you too.’
What a joy it is when brothers and sisters, and especially twins enjoy each other even from birth, and how sad when some wait until old age to discover they are best friends. If only those two gifted actresses had learned to recognise each other’s gifts, and instead of feeling threatened, been able to rejoice in each other’s success, how different their lives would have been.
Let’s make sure we do not have such regrets, but learn to be confident in the love of a wonderful God to whom each one of us is special, and let’s share this confidence with our children.