There's always more to any story and as I was putting together my sermon for this Sunday, "Surprised by Joy", it occurred to me that I had left out the pain part of my family's story in a previous post "Thoughts About Family". So here it is, lifted in part, from the upcoming sermon.
It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when we hurt each other badly over religion and politics. There was a time when I despaired of ever being on good terms with my family because I had become a UU. My sister, who is now my best friend, refused to participate in or attend my ordination over religious differences. There was some unease over Joel’s conversion to Catholicism. People worried about child-rearing and education and kids who seemed to be going wrong.
As I look back over how this (the change) came to be, I am wrenched all over again by the email conversations I had with my sister when she told me firmly why she couldn’t participate in or attend my ordination. Our religious beliefs clashed too badly for her. And it was devastating, that she would refuse to do this for me.
I was still living in Denver then and had few opportunities to be with my family. But I was planning to return to the Pacific Northwest and hoped to see a lot of my family once I relocated. My heart would sink when I’d think about the challenge of being with them after such a painful exchange.
A few months later, I learned, through a routine physical, that I would need open heart surgery to correct a birth defect, a hole in my heart. I was scared, naturally, afraid I’d not be able to fulfill my dream of ministry, afraid of dying, not sure what it meant in my life.
I called my family members to tell them and my sister’s immediate response was “I’ll be there, I’ll be with you throughout the surgery and as long as you need me to be.”
Her words changed everything and I was flooded with gratitude. Her willingness to be present for me at this very scary turn of events atoned for all the hurt, put our strained relationship back onto a better plane, and changed my attitude toward her. I was surprised by Joy. Where I had expected more hurt, I found hope.