I am blessed to teach a number of siblings at WCS. They can relate to this entry from February 2, 2012.
This week, my eighth graders took notes on the story of Jesus and His men coming to eat dinner at the home of Martha in Bethany. Found in Luke 10, Martha entertains the Savior but without the help of her sister, Mary. (Their soon-to-be-resurrected brother, Lazarus, makes no appearance in this vignette.) It's a well-known episode in the life of Christ. You know the script; Martha does the work while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and soaks in His teachings. Martha complains to Jesus and requests He command her sister to aid in the kitchen duties. Jesus' famous response was that Mary had chosen the better option and she wasn't going to be denied that valuable interaction. I pointed out that Jesus did not say that what Martha was doing was wrong; hospitality for the right reason is never wrong. One side note I brought up was that scholars believe Martha was the older of the sisters, based on the three references in which they are mentioned. I asked the kids why Martha involved Jesus in her attempt to get assistance from Mary instead of telling her herself. They answered because Mary would not listen to Martha but she would listen to Jesus, as she in fact was already doing. In my eighth period class that day were the three Cs sitting in adjacent rows, or in alphabetical order, Catherine, Chloe, and Clara. They seemed to have a special perspective on the story. You see, all three, besides being wonderful students, are the oldest daughter in their families and all three just happen to have their younger sister with them in our middle school. All confessed to relating to Martha, that there is a burden associated with being the oldest girl in a family, especially as it relates to responsibilities in the home. They also conceded they might at times get slightly annoyed with their sister, even though all three love them dearly. (As a frame of reference, two of the three younger sisters are on my basketball team and the third has sold me a truckload of Girl Scout cookies over the years.) I have a number of only children in my two eighth grade classes- I'm not sure they quite understood where the illustration was leading us.
As we went on, I spoke of how the Bible was not written in a vacuum and how the characters belonged to families, even very troubled families. That same day, my Gospels' classes took notes on the Parable Of The Rich Fool which begins with a man demanding that Jesus command his brother to share the inheritance. The next day, our eighth grade quiz was over the Parable Of The Prodigal Son. I had the students write a short paper, discussing whether there was justification in the older brother being angry when the younger brother returned; most felt he had every right to be mad. And as we made our way through the material, we touched on the flaws of the families of Jacob and Moses and David, flaws which in many cases dwarf the warts in our own clans. That day, I directed Catherine and Chloe and Clara to each hug their sometimes annoying sister when they got home and express their love; they told me they did. All I know is that as a younger sibling, I was never intentionally irritating to my older brother, Dave. OK- maybe I was but I'm the teacher and that doesn't have to come up in class. Sometimes, it's the prerogative of a younger sibling to have a selective memory.
Applicable quote of the day:
"If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want
to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child."
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