A comment I have been getting a lot lately as people find out more about my sister's ministry is. . .
"Wow! That's your only sister! She lives there? In Africa??? You must REALLY miss her!"
And I surprise myself with the answer that comes out of my mouth
"No," I say, "not really!"
Then, the person usually nods knowingly and says something about Skype and Facebook and I nod back and we continue the conversation. . .but I have been pondering that knee jerk response and feel the need to explain.
No, I do not miss my sister.
Not the way I miss our old Graham Avenue neighbors, not the way I miss my late grandmother, not even the way I miss having a Gap in the Washington Square mall.
That sounds harsh, so maybe I should clarify.
I cannot say I miss my sister because the alternative is unacceptable. In my mind, "missing" means longing for something and wanting it back. If I had the Gap in the Washington Square mall again, I could knock out all of my shopping in one totally uncrowded mall that has a Target attached to it. Yeah, I long for that! If I had my sister back from Africa, I would not have my sister back. Emily's heart and soul are in Africa, with the children and women that she serves and ministers to. She is absolutely the happiest I have ever seen her in her entire 22 years. God has transformed her, her spirit has been awakened, she has been filled with grace, her entire being overflows with joy and service. She is more fully present now than she ever was when she was in my physical presence, because the Lord is so alive and present in her. She has become the hands and feet of Christ, living the Gospel, and serving the least of His people. Her heart has found its home. It was never really here to begin with.
Now, if they rephrased the question, I might answer it differently. Do I miss watching Jersey Shore with my sister? YES!! Do I miss our Target runs? YES!! Do I miss the funny way she blows her nose and the way she leaves half empty water bottles everywhere kind of like that girl from Signs and my Dad following her around with a Sharpie to identify them as hers? YES!!! Do I miss the hilarity and excitement she brings to our family gatherings. . .like giant stuffed birds, homemade underwear, crazy socks and random kittens in baskets? DEFINITELY YES!!! But that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Of course, I cry (or bawl) when we say goodbye to her at the airport. Or when she casually Skypes me and informs me that she has malaria or some strange lump and gets my mind all in a tizzy. But those are selfish tears. Those are tears based on fear, and one thing I have learned from Emily is to not let fear grip your heart. I have to trust the One who called his daughter home to Africa to guard her and protect her. I have to know that He will provide for her needs while she serves His people, heal her illnesses, comfort her heart, and give her the grace and strength she needs to serve the children of Ekisa.
She's not mine. . .she's theirs.
It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.