|True Stories: The Sister’s Tug of War
With personal stories and advice firmly rooted in Scripture, this book offers hope for peace with God, peaceful relationships with others, and genuine peace within.
“Mom told me years ago that she wanted me to have her piano!” exclaimed Maria. “If you really cared about her wishes, you’d respect what she wanted.””Well, that’s pretty convenient,” said her sister Cindy. “You seem to have all sorts of special instructions that aren’t mentioned in her will.”
“Look, Cindy, all I’m asking for is the piano, the stock, and a few personal items. You can have her half of the flower shop and all of her other personal things.”
“Ha! Mom and I have struggled for five years to make the shop turn a profit. It’s not worth nearly as much as her stock. You’ll get everything of value and leave me holding an empty bag—as usual.”
“That’s ridiculous. Her share of the flower business is worth twice as much as the stock, and you could easily sell her cut glass collection for at least $5,000.”
“You don’t have a sentimental bone in your body, do you? Those things are all keepsakes that should remind us of Mom. I would never sell them.”
“Hold it, hold it!” exclaimed their uncle Will, who had dropped by to pick up a few pictures. “I’m sick and tired of hearing you two fight over Linda’s belongings. All these years you’ve been telling me how great your faith is, but all I see is the same selfishness and greed I have to deal with every day at the police station. Why don’t you just take a saw and cut the piano in half?” he yelled as he stormed out the door.
Maria and Cindy stood in stunned silence for several seconds. Then Cindy burst into tears and ran out the door to her car.
As Maria stood all alone in her mother’s vacant kitchen, she was overwhelmed with guilt and confusion. What should I do, Lord? she thought. I’ve made a mess of this. Mom really did want me to have the piano so Tammy could play it when she gets older. But should I just give it up so that Cindy gets her way? And what about Uncle Will? Years of witnessing to him just went down the drain. What should I do?
Suddenly a thought came to her mind. Wait a minute! Pastor James once said something about Christians taking their disputes to the church for help. I wonder if that would work in this situation.
“Wow!” said Pastor James when she talked to him later that afternoon. “I’ve never gotten involved in a legal dispute before. I wouldn’t know where to begin, especially since your sister goes to another church.”
“But can’t you at least try?” pleaded Maria. “There’s got to be a way to resolve this so it honors Mom’s wishes and is a better witness to my Uncle Will.”
“I suppose I could call Pastor Benson,” he said. “We have some theological differences, but maybe he would be willing to help work something out.”
To Pastor James’ surprise, Pastor Benson was open to working together to resolve the dispute. “But what about the legal issues?” he asked. “I don’t know anything about probate law, and if Cindy and Maria can’t come to an agreement, someone is going to have to decide who gets what.”
“I know someone who might help us,” said Pastor James. “When I was serving on the board at Triple Ridge Christian School, I met a Christian attorney who does probate work. Everyone thinks highly of Jean, and she seemed to have a lot of wisdom. Maybe she would be willing to work with us on this.”
“Sounds like it’s worth a try. Go ahead and call her. In the meantime, I’ll have a talk with Cindy and see if I can get her to sit down with us.”
As it turned out, it was easier to get Jean to serve as a conciliator than it was to convince Cindy that the church had a right to intervene in the dispute. But after spending an hour with Pastor Benson studying Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, she finally agreed to give mediation a chance.
Three days later, the two sisters were sitting in Jean’s conference room with their pastors. The process was a little tense at first, but as everyone relaxed they began to make progress. On a couple of occasions, each pastor had to meet privately with one of the sisters to confront sinful attitudes and inappropriate communication. Jean helped greatly by explaining basic probate laws and describing the financial and emotional costs the women would suffer if they took the matter to court.
Most importantly, the Holy Spirit worked through the pastors’ discussion of James 4:1-12 and Luke 12:14-21 to help the two women see that their real problem was the sinful desires that were battling within their hearts. When Maria and Cindy finally saw their cravings for what they were, they were able to confess their wrongs and forgive one another for all the harsh things they had said during the preceding months.
Even though they were now personally reconciled and agreed on how to divide their mother’s personal belongings (Cindy wanted Maria to have the piano), they still could not agree on what value to place on the flower shop. “I just don’t want to fight anymore,” said Cindy. “I think we’re too close to this thing to be objective. Couldn’t the three of you come up with a value for the shop? I’d be happy to go along with whatever you say.”
“That’s a good idea,” responded Maria. “You’re obviously trying to be fair, so I’d trust whatever you decide.”
The three conciliators looked at each other and then nodded their heads. After praying together, the sisters left to find their uncle.
It only took a few minutes for the conciliators to plan how to complete their work. “I really don’t think it will be all that hard,” said Jean. “I worked my way through law school as a commercial real estate agent. Once we get a look at the shop’s income statements, I can compare it to some other small businesses that have sold in town during the past year. We should be able to come up with a reasonable value within two weeks.”
“Then all we need to do is give Maria an equivalent amount of the stock, and split the balance of the stock between them,” added Pastor Benson. “That’s a lot easier than watching them tear each other apart in a court battle.”
“Yes, God is so good,” said Pastor James as he put on his coat. Then he smiled at Pastor Benson. “Now, if I can just get you straightened out on your views on baptism, we’d have everything in order!”
“Ha! You’re the one who needs instruction,” laughed Pastor Benson. “But I’ll tell you what: if you and Jean want to join me for a late dinner, I’ll let you present your case first. Then I’ll explain what the Bible really says, and we’ll let our esteemed attorney act as judge.”
“No way!” responded Jean as they walked toward their cars. “I’ll just sit back and see how you guys apply all the peacemaking principles you taught to Cindy and Maria today.”
“Touché!” said Pastor James as the two men laughed. As he looked at his fellow pastor, a radical thought came to mind. I’ve always thought you were weak in your theology, but after today I can see that you really know the Lord. Maybe there’s something I can learn from you after all.
He would probably have laughed again if he had known that Pastor Benson was thinking exactly the same thing about him.