My niece was sixteen when she came to live with us two weeks after my sister Mara had been tragically killed in a car accident. Mara and I had never been close. I didn’t agree with her raising Christy as a single mother. I had tried to tell her what the Bible says about fornication and sin, and that she would end up in hell, but she had never wanted anything to do with the Bible. I had given up on her, glad that I had the good sense to listen to God in my life.
I mourned her death, but was not surprised. And because of my sister’s and my estrangement, I had never gotten to know my niece very well. Now she was coming to be part of my family, joining my husband Mark, and my five-year-old son Joshua.
“I don’t eat meat,” Christy announced at the dinner table her first night with us.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to,” I told her gently.
“Do I have to eat my meat?” my son Joshua chimed in.
“Yes, honey, you have to eat your meat.” I answered.
“How come you have all those things in your eyebrows? Are they falling off or something?” Joshua asked Christy.
“No,” she blushed. “They’re jewelry. It’s how I express myself.”
I hoped Josh hadn’t noticed the green tint in her hair.
“You have green hair,” Josh blurted out. “That’s neat. Mom, can I get my hair green?”
“No, sweetie, you can’t have green hair.” I patiently answered.
We took Christy to church with us, although I was embarrassed by her various piercings, her ratty jeans, and messy hair. Thankfully, the green was almost gone.
I didn’t know how to be a mother to a girl; especially not a sixteen-year-old girl. I was used to little boys. I wanted to be there for her, but I kept thinking of my sister, and all her mistakes, Christy being one of them. What would people at church think of her?
Sunday after Sunday, she slumped in the pew, and looked bored. I doubt if she listened to a thing Father Andrew said. She didn’t use the prayer book, or the hymnal. I was so embarrassed. I heard the whispers and felt the staring.
One day, after school I heard the front door slam. Christy’s announcement she was home. I was surprised when she came into the kitchen, since she always went to her room without a word.
“Hi,” I greeter her. “How’s school?”
“Okay. One of my friends got tickets to this concert. The Newsboys. Can I go?” Her posture dared me to say no.
“Newsboys? I’ve never heard of them. What kind of music is it?” I asked, suspicious of my niece getting involved in some satanic group.
“They’re um…a Christian band. I wouldn’t even go but the tickets were free so…”
“That sounds great. Sure you can go.” I turned back to my meatloaf. I wasn’t sure about these Christian bands, but it was a start.
“Aunt Beth?” Christy was still in the kitchen.
“What, honey?” I turned back around.
“Sarah. That’s my friend that has the tickets. She has an extra one. Her mom told me to ask you if you want to come along.”
“Well, sure. I’ll come along.” I was surprised at the invitation, but I was determined to bond with my niece any way I could.
The Newsboys concert not only changed my niece, but it changed me. I learned that God can speak to us in ways we can never imagine. Like through music.
I couldn’t get Christy to open a Bible, yet the Newsboys, like the Bible, touched both of us that night with their music of a loving Christ; a God who is there for us at every moment, at every turn, no matter what our circumstances, what we’ve done, or where we are in life. Their songs are not of a God who punishes, but of a God who redeems and draws us close to Him.
The following Sunday, I thought of Mara, and I asked forgiveness for the harsh way I had judged her. I hoped with Christy I would have a second chance to love my sister.
Christy still has her piercings, but since that first Newsboys concert, my whole family has grown closer to God. And now when people at church stare at her, we just hug our daughter and sister closer.
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