Walking into the church before my son Justin’s wedding to his beautiful bride Annie, I really hoped I had succeeded to make him feel proud to have me as his mother. An eye for fashion is definitely not a strength I possess, and finding an outfit for this special day was the most challenging aspect of preparing for the wedding.
Though I felt a little insecure, I really liked the dress I’d finally chosen. Arriving at the church, friends smiled and made kind comments about how pretty my dress was, and I sighed relief, thinking I was home free. I was relaxing a little easier when suddenly my daughter-in-law Rachel saw me and said, “Oh my goodness! That necklace doesn’t look good at all with your dress! You’d better not wear it!”
As soon as I removed the necklace, my good friend Shelley, standing nearby, breathed relief and commented, “I didn’t think it looked good either, but I didn’t want to say anything,” and my sister, beside her, agreed, “I didn’t think it matched either, but I didn’t want to say anything either…”
“Some ‘friend’ you are!” I joked to both of them, and we all laughed. Shelley hurried to get her jewelery bag and rescued me with a necklace that was perfect with the dress.
One more time, my daughter-in-law, as it turned out, had been my truest friend, covering me when I needed it, helping me to look the best I could be. I was so grateful for her!
In fact, I am more grateful than I can express that God has blessed us with each one of our “in-laws”– our two daughters-in-law and our son-in-law. Each one is truly a gift of God’s amazing grace to us. As we’re living out life, I am constantly learning more about becoming a mother-in-law. We’re “becoming”– and enjoying the ride along the way!
Call me a party-pooper if you will, but in the same way that I don’t think degrading jokes about the incompetencies of “men” v.s. women are funny, I also don’t think that derrogatory jokes about “in-laws” are funny. I resist the negative connotation that the world consistently paints of the relationships between a mother-in-law and her daughter- or son-in-law. Instead, if we want to learn to do it “right,” it’s absolutely imperitive to find out what God commands and expects, and to let that be our expectation.
The Biblical story of Ruth and Orpah with their mother-in-law Naomi portrays an incredible picture of the relationship between these woman and their mother-in-law. It’s one of love, friendship, commitment, and respect. In a word, they had become “family.”
Ruth’s biological mother was undoubtedly still alive, and Naomi had urged both women to return to the homes they came from, on the death of their husbands. But somehow, Ruth understood the nature of her relationship with Naomi, and embraced her responsibility as the only surviving “family” that Naomi had! She did not deny the love she had for her own biological family, but as Naomi’s closest family member, she sacrificially denied herself the comfort and security of her own biological family in order to take on the responsibility of caring for her mother-in-law, left destitute. Amazing.
One of my sisters, Dale, lives a variation to the theme of the Ruth/Naomi story. Both of Dale’s two daughters-in-law, Angie and Annie, lost their mothers to cancer within a year of each other–Annie’s mother a mere 2 months after Josh and Annie were married. While Dale can never replace either of their mothers– nor should she want to– she has built a strong, close, special ‘mother-in-law’ relationship with each of these young women. Their commitment is built upon the enduring covenant promises that built these in-law relationships into a true “family,” just as Ruth was with Naomi.
It’s been a wonderful thing for me to share this awesome “in-law” chapter of my life with many good friends who are also currently experiencing the same thing. Watching this great chapter unfold, there are some principles that I’m seeing woven through these that clearly mark the success, or failure, of these “in-law” relationships.
For all of us, the greatest blessing and the greatest assurance of success is found in the unwavering commitment that our children and their husbands/wives themselves share with each other, knowing that their relationship with each other is a testimony to the world around them of Jesus Christ, His love and faithful covenantal commitment to His Bride, the Church. Remember hearing that “the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother?” Likewise, the best thing a mother-in-law can do for her sons and daughters-in-law is to let them love each other so the world can see a picture of Christ and His Bride.
Therefore understanding that, as parents we must also understand that the two families representing this couple are a support team, committed to the success of the testimony of Jesus Christ through them. Just as in marriage itself, the deadliest distortion on the “in-law” relationship arises when we try to compete, instead of complete.
When we see ourselves as a vital part of a team, we can more affectively fill our role as prayer partners, support partners, and encouragement partners. Yesterday, my daughter-in-law Annie sent an email to all her family members– all of us– with a prayer request. I am so happy and so honored to be part of the team– two families together committed to support, help, and pray… and laugh, and eat, and go to ballgames…
“A son is a son till he takes a wife?” True. Then it gets even better. Far, far better.
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