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I am Loved ... I am Forgiven
Jessica and her sister Nykesha are somewhat listening to Rev. Gaillard preach his annual Easter sermon. Both sisters look reasonably attentive; however, Nykesha is thinking about how cute she looks in her pink and violet rainbow Easter dress. Jessica is giving her sister the side eye and wishing her baby sister did not look so cute. Every Sunday, "It's Nykesha's so cute!" "Look at Nykesha's cute dimples!" "Nykesha's dress is so cute ..." To Jessica, Nykesha is always stealing the limelight! Just once, Jessica wishes, I could go somewhere without hearing Nykesha this! Nykesha that! ... Don't I look cute, too, in my new floral dress and shrug?
Twitching and stretching in a futile attempt to refocus her attention to Pastor Gaillard's sermon, Jessica abruptly whispers in her sister's ear: "I'm sitting in the front seat on the way home."
Nykesha gives her sister a sharp elbow jab to her waist and exclaims in a loud voice, "Oh, no you're not! Mom said it's my turn!"
Embarrassed by her daughter's disruptive outburst in the middle of Pastor Gaillard's Easter sermon, Mrs. Stuart quickly gives both girls the dreaded ... Look! Nykesha and Jessica know that when their soft-spoken mom gives them her unflinching, stone-faced Look, she means business! Nykesha and Jessica know that they are in big trouble for misbehaving in church.
Nykesha's little heart is growing heavy with imaginings, causing her eyes to bulge with tears: If mom says I can't go to the Easter Egg Roll, she thinks, it will be all Jessica's fault!
Believing Nykesha's yell to be an attention-getting ploy, Jessica swats her sister's dress as if it's a fly, saying, "Scoot over, Miss Cutie Tutee! I don't want your old dress touching mine!"
"Mom, Jessica won't leave me alone!"
Finally, Mrs. Stuart pulls Nykesha across her lap to sit to her left, separating the squabbling sisters. Nykesha and Jessica's bickering at church also extends to home and is a growing worry for Mrs. Stuart. While she understands that a degree of competition is part of most siblings' childhood, she also knows that left unchecked, it can also lead to a lifetime of hurt and regret. Lord, she prays, please help my girls to understand they are Sisters, not Rivals.
Mrs. Stuart expects her girls to be more attentive during Sunday church services. Nevertheless, she finds comfort knowing that nine-year-old Jessica and seven-year-old Nykesha understand that Easter is about the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, not Easter Eggs or Chocolate bunnies. When the sisters could barely read, they could tell the story of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection.
At last year's Easter play, Nykesha's beautiful reading of Mark 15:16-25 left the congregation amazed by her enthusiasm and perfect pronunciations with such praise as "Oh, Nykesha sure can talk!" "Lord knows, Nykesha is a gifted child!" "Nykesha is going to be a teacher one day!"
Not to be outdone, Jessica soon astounds the church congregation with her recitation of "The Creation," by James Weldon Johnson, a narrative poem previously thought by her mom too demanding for her to learn. After hours of practice, Jessica astonishes the congregation and her mother with a beautiful recitation of the classic poem. While Jessica insists her performance is to honor God; in her heart, she knows the real reason is to outperform her little sister in recognition and praise.
Hoping their mom might forget their church misbehaviors, the sisters make a beeline to their bedroom, quickly change into their play clothes, and begin counting the different candies in their Easter baskets:
"Six Marshmallow Eggs, 10 Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans, 9 Chocolate Carrots, 12 Packs of Candy Corn, and 7 Sweet Tarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies! Wow! We got the real good candies this year, Jessica!"
"All thanks to me! I could take all the candy and leave you with none! After all, I'm the one that made it to church when the teachers passed out Easter candies! As always, I do the work, and you get the rewards!"
"That's not true! I do lots of work!"
"Oh, don't start crying! Geez, you're such a Cry Baby!"
"I'm not a Cry Baby! You take that back!"
Standing at the door is Mrs. Stuart, who overhears the whole conversation and is taken aback by Jessica's harsh taunts.
"Jessica, stop it, right now! What is wrong with you, Child?"
"Everything is wrong, Mom! Whenever I want to hang out with my friends, you make me take Nykesha with us! At church, everyone just oohs and aahs over Nykesha! 'Oh, she's so cute!' 'Look at her dimples!' Nykesha! Nykesha! Nykesha! No one ever calls me cute or pretty! I stood in the long line to get Easter candy, not Nykesha! She yells in church, and I'm in trouble! It's not fair! Easter is supposed to be fun, not full of sacrifices!"
Jessica's conclusion that Easter is supposed to be fun takes Mrs. Stuart by surprise! How is it possible, she wonders, that my daughters can stand before crowds and read the story of Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection, recite beautiful Easter poems, attend Sunday church services, and still have no understanding as to what the Crucifixion and Resurrection mean in their lives?
Jessica, I know you love Nykesha. Jesus teaches us that sacrifices made for love make love more perfect. Are your sacrifices for Nykesha making your sisterly love more perfect or are they responsible for the tears in her eyes and the jealousy in your heart?"
"I guess I never really looked at it that way ... I don't know why I sometimes say and do these hurtful things, Mom."
"We all do things that we don't always understand and are not pleasing in God's eyes. God sent his Son Jesus to die on the Cross so that all who ask forgiveness can be set free, and our hearts cleansed of the burden of sin."
"Mom, how do we know that God forgives the wrong things we've done? I ... I haven't always been very nice to Nykesha."
"When Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning, it proved that His sacrifice was accepted by the Heavenly Father. We celebrate Easter, not for the fun of Easter games and Chocolate Bunnies, but because Jesus defeated death and lives; and one day, we will all live forever with Him in Heaven!"
"Sometimes, I get a little jealous. I am asking God to forgive me. Nykesha, will you forgive me?"
"You are my big sister, and I love you! Now, let's hug and eat our Easter candy!"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "I am Loved ... I am Forgiven"
Copyright © 2019 Dr. Beverly Boone.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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