Open Your Bible
Exodus 14:21-31, Exodus 15:19-21, Numbers 12:1-16, Numbers 20:1
BY Annie Downs
I think Jesus gives special grace to older sisters. Sure, maybe it’s because I am one (multiple times over, thank you very much), but I still think it is true.
There’s something in the heart of an older sister, put there by God, that is akin to mama mode. Have you seen that in yourself? Or in the older sister in your life? Or in your oldest daughter? The oldest sister protects, she cares, she worries. Yet, at the same time, she fiercely desires independence—she’s just careful not to go so far away she can’t come running the first time she’s needed.
We are fickle creatures, us eldest sisters.
And Miriam fits in our club so well.
We meet Miriam in Exodus 2, when her brother Moses is just a baby in a basket, floating down a river (I CANNOT IMAGINE THE PANIC I WOULD FEEL IF MY BABY SISTER SALLY WAS IN THAT BASKET!). She follows and protects and does her big sister thing. And the Bible doesn’t say this, but I’m betting she didn’t take her eyes off that floating basket its entire trip.
They grow up, and as we keep reading about Miriam and Moses and their other brother Aaron, she’s still there. Of course she is. She’s a big sister. She’s THE big sister. She stands with him, she travels with him, she leads the women in worship as Moses leads the people. And also? She gets all judgy about his decision-making.
(Classic big sister move, Miriam. CLASSIC.)
We see it in Numbers 12, when she gets herself and Aaron all worked up about this gal Moses marries, and God is none too pleased. This woman who has stood by her brother—from his first river-float to crossing the Red Sea—is now, decades later, in trouble with God for speaking against Moses.
It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Even with the ones we love the most, the ones we feel most connected to and most responsible for, we mess it up. We do it wrong. We sin. We hurt others.
Just because older sisters feel protective and caring and are awesome in general (ahem), it certainly does not make them perfect. (That sound you hear is my younger siblings screaming “AMEN! PREACHIN’ TO THE CHOIR!”) And that’s a hard thing for us to face as humans, no matter your birth order.
It’s hard to feel like you can’t fix what you want to fix OR judge when you want to judge. Whether you are a mama or a friend or a sibling, I think we all have people we feel we can protect, take care of, and insulate from hurt and pain and disaster. It was a hard day for me when I had to face the fact that I am unable to protect my sisters and keep them safe. Even on my best days, I am not enough.
We can’t be Jesus. We can’t be the rescuer. And that’s disturbing to our human hearts.
Miriam had to feel that. We see it in some of her actions. And I bet if we knew her, and she was willing to be honest, we’d hear it in her stories too—the struggle to be her own woman while also protecting these grown little brothers who are leading hundreds of thousands of people across a sea and a desert for years and years. The struggle to not just be a leader but be a hero— the hero.
Do you feel that way, too?
Do you think you have to be the hero? Do you believe you alone must enact justice in the lives of the people you love? Do you presume to be enough to win this battle?
Oh, sister. You aren’t, you don’t, you can’t. Remember, Miriam said it herself when she sang in Exodus 15:
HE has triumphed gloriously.
For you. On your behalf.
God is the rescuer. Jesus is the hero. You don’t have to carry the burden for all your people, you just have to trust that Jesus does.
Maybe the greatest grace Jesus gives big sisters (and all sisters) is the grace to let go and let Him triumph.
It is glorious that way.