Walking Together Towards Faith

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nicole-t-walters-sister3

When we meet new people we often have to clarify our closeness. We finish each other’s sentences and laugh at jokes that others around us don’t get. We see eyes dart with questioning looks and have to qualify it with, “Oh, we’re sisters” and then we see them nod with understanding.

My sister’s favorite thing to ask people next is, Who do you think is older? Most of the time my wrinkles give people the impression that I am the elder sister, though I am actually four years younger.

Truth is, I show most of the characteristics of a firstborn—structured, cautious, and controlling. She has all the fun-loving, outgoing traits of the lastborn. Over the years we’ve each taken on the role of leading the other, following in each other’s footsteps.

It hasn’t always been this way though. There were times I thought I had it all figured out when I really needed to humbly learn from her.

When I became the first follower of Christ in my family at 14, I plunged into a rule-based faith like my very salvation depended on it. I think my motivation was right—I loved Jesus and wanted to follow God well. But I separated myself from the world and my family. I alienated those who loved me best.

I was defensive and self-righteous, intent on “saving” my family. I created a divide between us when I should have loved and served.

I know I wounded my sister deeply in those years. I called out her sin (ignoring my own unloving, prideful spirit). I picked fights over creation and evolution. I did all but call her a heathen.

Yet she met me with forgiveness. The sister who followed the Savior who modeled ultimate forgiveness held a grudge against her lack of faith. The one who wasn’t ready to embrace Jesus acted more like Him than I did.

When I fell from faith in college, she never mentioned the hurt I caused. She was right there—the best friend I had known as a young child, never questioning my faith or my lack of it.

In those years, she gave me something that I never gave her: the room to search.

We stood elbow to elbow at the stage as the crowds pressed against our backs. The bass pumped through our bodies as we sought together at concerts and clubs.

In a much thinner crowd, we stood not touching and not daring to look at each other. We each stared at our tiny, flickering flame. Silent night, holy night. It was a whisper, a question. We sought together in the hush of Christmas Eve, in the unasked questions between us. Could we still be us if one of us believed and the other didn’t? Could I believe again and not judge?

She was there when I questioned.

She was there when I found Jesus again and learned for the first time how to live in His grace, how to live out of love and compassion.

I sat with her in the synagogue where we stumbled through the Hebrew neither of us knew. I bought her the Torah that she poured over with her questions.

She sat with me in the echoing sanctuary of the church where I worked, sang hymns with me even though she wasn’t yet sure she believed their words.

Today we still sit elbow to elbow. In Bible study. Praying together. Serving together. Finding Jesus together.

We sit side by side in our local writing group, stumbling through words about faith and hoping our stories inspire someone.

When I first believed, I took on that role of leader, a role I so naturally gravitate towards. I had it in my mind I was going to lead her to faith.

Instead she taught me how to walk side by side towards faith, how to meet someone where they are at instead of where we want them to be. Meet them in their brokenness. Meet them in their questions and doubts.

She showed me it’s not your job to fix others. It’s your job to be in it with them, to love them through it all; without an eye on the outcome, but with an eye on the heart, on healing. Leading through serving. Loving through believing in people.

This is the legacy of my sister.

I had faith. She helped me learn how to live it.

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Nicole T Walters
I am a wife, working mom, and writer from metro Atlanta who loves to experience the messy, noisy, beautiful world and cultures not my own. A proud member of the Redbud Writer's Guild, I write about finding God’s voice in all the noise, faith, and culture at A Voice in the Noise.
Nicole T Walters
Nicole T Walters

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Nicole T Walters
  • Nompendulo Nomps Shabangu

    I absolutely love this and can relate all too well. I remember how God showed me how much I had my nose stuck in the clouds thinking I was better than my older sister because of my faith and her seemingly floundering one. The mercy of God. I love how He brings us to just the right place at the perfect time to teach us valuable lessons, with the open door of opportunity to repent.

    • The right place at the perfect time – yes! I think that is such a hard part of the lesson – trusting God’s timing in that journey to faith instead of pushing our timeline. And in that He teaches those of us walking with them so much as well! Blessings!

  • What a beautiful gift we have to offer our sisters — both biological and spiritual! Living life alongside them with all our faithfulness and failings visible — and “without an eye on the outcome but with an eye on the heart”: this is such a beautiful portrayal of the body of Christ.

    • Yes, we find so many sisters along the way this way. All part of the family, the body:)

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  • This reminds me so much of my sister and I! We are barley 2 years apart and though we fought a lot as kids, we are best friends now. I love when you said, “how to meet someone where they are at instead of where we want them to be.” I needed to hear this as I am in a situation of someone struggling and stumbling and I’m not sure how to help them or push them towards Christ. Meet them where they are, I love that!

    • Oh, I fought her tooth and nail back then like arguing someone over to faith was going to work (maybe it does sometimes, guess that is the place of apologetics, but I’ve never experienced that in relationship). When we stepped into each others worlds the relationship grew. I literally went to temple and to meditation with her and she went to church with me. I prayed instead of fighting and in God’s time we both found a faith that was real and vibrant. Love to you as you navigate that hard balance!

  • Amanda Tingle Taylor

    I remember all these times you wrote about so well! I wouldn’t change our path at all. I hope others can take something from it and use it in their life. Love you!!!

    • Me too! I love that this legacy is one that we are passing onto our children together now. xoxox

  • “Could we still be us if one of us believed and the other didn’t? Could I believe again and not judge?”

    Powerful question. The kind of question a powerful sisterhood can withstand.

    • It took years of growing in my faith to understand the kind of sisterhood that could withstand it. I am so grateful I have found it with so many others all over the world and across online spaces now, too:)

  • Tammy Gonzalez

    Nicole, your words are an encouragement to me in my relationships with my son and husband. The overwhelming message I’m receiving right now is to just love them, accept them, and encourage them despite the choices that have moved them away from God.

    “Instead she taught me how to walk side by side towards faith, how to meet someone where they are at instead of where we want them to be. Meet them in their brokenness. Meet them in their questions and doubts. She showed me it’s not your job to fix others. It’s your job to be in it with them, to love them through it all; without an eye on the outcome, but with an eye on the heart, on healing. Leading through serving. Loving through believing in people.”

    Thank you for these timely words!

    • I am so glad these words met you. It was a hard learned lesson for me but ten years after my journey began both of my parents found faith in Christ and my sister shortly after that. It has been beautiful to see the way God has moved in the lives of my family and all He has taught me in the process. Blessings, sister!