When You Don't Want To Love Your Family

I haven’t always had the greatest relationship with my sister-in-law. I’m the oldest of five siblings, with four girls and one boy, and we were homeschooled so we spent a lot of time together growing up. My brother started dating my sister-in-law when I was in college and he was a freshman in high school, and I wasn’t in favor of their relationship.

Some of the reasons I worried about them were somewhat justified and many of them were not, but even the reasons that were justified were quickly blown out of proportion in my mind so they became ridiculous and unjustified, and I blamed most of it on my sister-in-law. We had a frosty relationship for years, and I’m ashamed to say that when my brother asked me to take pictures at their engagement, I was very cranky the whole time. When we left the pond at OSU where they got engaged to go to their party, one of my sisters asked, “What the heck is wrong with you?” but I was too selfish to be able to even put on a happy face for my brother.

Sometimes I prayed that God would either break them up or that I would learn to accept my sister-in-law, but as the wedding date approached, I didn’t learn to accept her so I stopped asking.

I didn’t spend much time with them outside of family get-togethers during the first year of their marriage, and when they moved to Colorado in 2015, I figured that was the end of my now-tenuous relationship with my brother. I was very upset about it, but I didn’t pray about it or consider it from a spiritual angle. I was stubbornly unwilling to become friends with my sister-in-law in order to prove to myself and everyone that I had been right about her all along, even if it cost me my relationship with my brother.

A few months after they moved, my brother asked if I wanted to accompany them to a music festival in the Rockies because he knew I liked the headlining band. After I bought a ticket and booked my plane, I started to wonder what I would talk about with my sister-in-law for a whole weekend. I had never spent time with them alone. Had I just made a pretty expensive mistake?

On the fateful weekend, everything was civil and normal for the first day, but not exactly friendly. The turning point was the night we spent in the tent at the festival, when my sister-in-law found a vole scrabbling in the sleeping bag under the deck of cards we were playing with. My brother screamed and I fumbled with the tent zipper while she scooped the vole up and it bit her, and we all shared a long laugh after it was safely outside.

The vole broke the ice and we had a total blast after that. We ate lunch by a mountain stream, smuggled drinks into the concert venue, and stood out in a field for ten hours of openers to be right next to the stage for Mumford and Sons.

Since then, I’ve gone back to Denver five or six times, sometimes on my own and sometimes with my sisters, to visit. That’s more time spent with them than when they lived in Oklahoma. I feel much closer to my brother and sister-in-law than I ever have, and my sister-in-law and I communicate via Snapchat or Instagram almost daily. I text my brother now more than anyone else in my family.

The moral of this story is that God changed my heart and made me love my sister-in-law in spite of my very willful and stupid determination not to. My brother and sister-in-law are moving to New Mexico soon so she can start medical school, and I am so excited to visit them in a new place. That’s something I never thought I would say three years ago.

This is the biggest example in recent years of God changing my heart even without me wanting him to, and now I enjoy a close relationship with two people who will be in my life until I die. I hope this story is encouraging because God takes care of us, even answering prayers we don’t necessarily want him to answer, and he can give us a lot of love for people that we never thought we’d love. Years ago, I wanted my brother to marry somebody I chose, but now I can’t imagine my family without my sister-in-law. God might even use a nasty vole burrowed in your sleeping bag to change things for you forever.

Doug Serven