I’m the eldest of a family of girls and perhaps it’s not surprising that I identify with Meg March and Jane Bennet more than Jo and Lizzie.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with being a Jane-and-Meg kind of girl. It’s just that a lot of big sisters identify more with Meg and Jane in a world that celebrates Jo and Lizzie. And it’s easy for a big sister (okay, this big sister!) to wonder if there’s something wrong with her because she isn’t a Lizzie-and-Jo kind of girl.
It’s said that women tend to define themselves by their relationships and that’s always been true of me: daughter, sister, friend. One of my most treasured titles is that of “big sister“.
There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding the identity of the firstborn. It’s impossible for me to be objective about my strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve never really identified with a lot of the stereotypes. For me, being the firstborn means, well, being the big sister, the little mama, the good girl.
Each and every one of us has a separate role in our families and none of the roles we can occupy is “special”. Being a firstborn girl isn’t better than being the middle child or the youngest child. Neither, however, is it worse. And it’s likely that your role, whatever it is, in your family has shaped your personality.
How may being a big sister have shaped your personality as a Jane-and-Meg kind of girl?
The Big Sister
“Once a big sister, always a big sister” and I wouldn’t change that, but I remember how odd it was the first time someone introduced themselves and said, “You must be Becky’s big sister.” (I was fine with being “Becky’s Big Sister” — we laughed about it together for years!)
It’s easy to hear and internalise that sort of remark and think, “Is that all I am…her big sister? His big sister? The one who’s cool when she drops her off at church, but boring when she tells him that it’s time to go home?” It’s especially easy to do so if you already think of yourself as the Jane-and-Meg type and your “little” sibling is beautiful, clever, funny, exciting and on a mission to change the world.
Remember that it’s okay to be the Jane-and-Meg type. You are who God created you to be. I’m sure it’s a lot of fun to be beautiful, clever, funny, exciting and on a mission to change the world, but what if you’re not that type of girl? That’s okay!
You are fearfully and wonderfully made the way God made you and your identity is not who your “little” siblings are and who you aren’t — your identity is in the fact that Christ purchased you from sin and death with His own blood. You are His girl first and foremost!
Remember that and enjoy being you!
The Little Mama
Recently the only knife I could find to cut a granddaddy of a watermelon was a cheap, thin bread knife — the kind that flexes to and fro when used to cut bread. And this one was going to be used to cut watermelon! Nonetheless I handed it over with my usual warning: “Careful. Don’t cut yourself on the knife!”
I got a funny look and it took me a moment to realise that I’d told a guy older than me — married with two daughters — to be careful with a knife!
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being the little mama. The Bible says that God knew you before you were born and has a plan for your life. That fact that you’re the little mama in your family isn’t an accident or a surprise to God. You can resent your role or embrace it as a gift from Him.
On a good day, it’s easy to embrace it; on a bad day, a really bad day, it can be be one of the hardest things to do. Take a deep breath. Remember that He can work your role as little mama together with everything else in your life for good and His grace is sufficient.
Just be aware of who you tell to be careful and how, otherwise you may earn a funny look of your own!
The Good Girl
It’s easy to be so busy being reliable and responsible — and as sweet as possible — that you start finding your identity in being “a good girl” and start hiding behind that identity, like a mask, all the time.
There’s nothing wrong with being “a good girl” — with being strong and sweet, with helping others, with living a giving and sacrificial life. Sometimes, however, we can start to think that everything from the love of our Saviour to the survival of our families depends on how good we are — on how strong and sweet we are, on how we help others, on how we give and sacrifice.
Sometimes we’re to busy being “a good girl” that we can’t be honest about how we really feel and think, even with God.
The first thing you need to know is that He loved us first — He loved us before we loved Him (or others) and His love is not dependent on our love. Nothing can separate you from His love. Try to find a place of rest, rather than striving, in His love.
The second thing you need to know is that it is in Him that you and those you love “live and move and have our being“. Your living and their moving and our having our being is not dependent on you or I or anyone being “a good girl”.
Sometimes the best thing that “a good girl” can do is to realise that,
When it seems like the situation calls for me to stand up and take charge, Jesus gives me permission to remain still, if only on the inside, to trust deeply and fully that He will be strong on my behalf. Even when it seems impossible. Even when it’s counterintuituve. Even if it means that we will look weak.
(Grace for the Good Girl, Emily Freeman, p.147)
Even seeming weak can be scary, but remember, His grace is enough in your weakness, in your strength and sweetness, in every bit of your big sister identity and life.