“Those aren’t from the cats.”
I was referring to the cuts all over my little sister’s legs. The same cuts she had previously told my parents were from our pets. An innocent consequence of their sharp, playful paws. But once the dots were connected between our missing kitchen knives and my sister’s multiplying “scratches,” it was clear. And as much as my mom and dad wanted to believe the lie their youngest had been telling them, there could be no more pretending.
My sister was hurting herself.
She needed help, and her mental health quickly became the main focus of our family. Rightly so.
But after several months of what, to me, felt like walking on eggshells and not being noticed “enough” by my parents, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy and that I had been left behind. Wasn’t I just as important? Didn’t I matter too?
I was only in middle school myself, and I lacked the maturity needed to understand the complexity of mental illness and that my parents’ focus on my sister was never an indication of their lack of love for me. In contrast, they were modeling what it means to care for those most in need.
Christ models the same message in the parable of the lost sheep. The man who leaves his flock of ninety-nine in search of the one may seem foolish at first. In fact, his actions were contrary to what a normal shepherd would have done. Emphasizing the needs of the few as opposed to those of the majority was and is counter cultural.
But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. And Christ’s self-sacrificing love, too, is counter cultural. It doesn’t always make sense, but I know and trust that God’s example is the one to follow.
And while God loves more deeply and fully than we will ever understand, we are called to imitate that perfect love and share it with all we encounter, especially those in most need.