By Monica Salinas
Can you imagine eleven girls between the ages of five and seventeen eating together at a round table? Anyone would think that it is a children’s birthday party, but no, that was the daily dynamic at the Salinas home.
I am number ten of eleven sisters. Growing up surrounded by them, each unique and different, was a blessing. Although I must confess that things were not always well between us, and sometimes I did not appreciate the gift that God had given me. As in all families, due to various factors or circumstances, tensions sometimes occurred between us.
In my case, I had difficulty relating to one of my older sisters. The differences in age and painful circumstances were factors that caused these difficulties. Additionally, my sister was not a believer, therefore our values and way of thinking were very different. As a result, our relationship was very distant for years. I kept myself distant from her because of resentment for things in the past. Although I was not the only one with whom my sister had difficulties, I was the one who remained the most distant.
Many times, the Holy Spirit called me to seek reconciliation with my sister. And although I knew I should do it, I did not have the courage, or I did not know how to do it. Maybe you can relate to me.
As I began to pray for her, I realized that there was also much pain in her heart and that my sister and I needed each other. Little by little, God taught me how to love my sister just as she was. It wasn’t until that moment that I could leave the past behind. I gained the courage to seek her out and ask her for forgiveness. We forgave each other and since then (although we continue to have differences) we have cultivated a relationship of sisters. Now I can tell her and show her that I love her, and that I care.
I do not share this story to call attention to myself as the “perfect sister”. Instead, I intend to emphasize the fact that even though one can have biological sisters, it does not guarantee that we will interact with each other as true sisters. It takes love, humility, intentionality, and courage to get close to those who hurt us in the past, even when they are part of our own family.
Sisterhood requires intentionality. In my country there is this saying, “leaders are not born, they are made.” I think that is also true for friendships that become sisterhoods. The bonds of love, affection, and commitment must be formed in order to unite. A sisterhood is created when we decide to be the kind of person that loves and gives. The one that chooses to remain when everyone else has left, and the one that extends her hand even when she has nothing more to give but a hand.
That is the kind of sisterhood we find in the bible between Ruth and Naomi. Contrary to all prognosis, the relationship between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law became such that, even when there were no legal ties to unite them any longer, Ruth decided to relinquish her opportunity to return to her immediate family, and remained with Naomi. She decided to face the same fate as her mother-in-law in a strange country, although that meant that her chances of remarrying and raising a family would be reduced.
Apparently, the ties that bound Ruth and Naomi were now stronger than their initial relationship of kinship. Perhaps the difficult circumstances of life had united them more. Upon arriving in Judah, Ruth worked hard to bring her mother-in-law food to eat. Later, they made a plan so that Ruth could marry Boaz; and the story ends with her giving birth of to a son, Obed.
Although not all sisterhood stories conclude with a happy ending like this one, it is important to highlight the love and commitment that Ruth and Naomi shared. They sought the goodness in each other. Moreover, the cost Ruth was willing to pay to continue the relationship with her mother-in-law was remarkable. None of this happened by chance or because of their formal legal relationship, but because Ruth sought to become a daughter to Naomi.
Throughout our lives, God gives us the opportunity to meet people who become as close or more so than our own family members. Sometimes they come into our lives as a comfort in times of pain or need. Other times, it is up to us to show our friendship and be that “friend who is closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Ever since I got married, I have lived far from my family. As a pastor’s wife I have also experienced loneliness in ministry. I particularly remember in 2012, being away from my country of origin and not understanding the language very well. I was going through a difficult time. Feeling very lonely, I attended my first CLLI training and there I found what I needed. In addition to receiving a great amount of affirmation from God and understanding of my call, God gave me three beautiful friends who were like sisters in times of need. My life after that experience was never the same. It was as if God had prepared a beautiful surprise that would fill my heart with hope, renew my strength, and give me clarity to understand the purpose for which God brought me here. I thank God for the blessing of being part of CLLI because this ministry, in addition to empowering and training Christian women, it provides them with appropriate space for fellowship.
It is clear that sisterhood is not just born but is purposefully made and built by taking the initiative to create spaces where the good of the other person is sought. It is in these intentional spaces where a friendship grows and flourishes, to become a beautiful, powerful, and blessed sisterhood.
Monica Salinas serves as the Administrative Associate of CLLI and is a graduate of our program.