If it falls into the former and your relationship rains roses and sunshine, I hope you’ll keep reading so you can add your two cents of encouragement at the end.
But if, sweet sistahs, your in-law relationship falls into the more difficult latter…can you scooch real close to me and allow me to ask some very personal, maybe even uncomfortable questions? Because I care enough to ask.
Have you drenched your difficult relationship in prayer? If so, what is the focus of your prayer? Have you pleaded with God to change your in-laws’ personality or behavior…or maybe just move them across the country so you don’t have to deal with them as frequently?
Somewhere between young adult and middle age, my understanding of prayer changed. I began to see how often my prayers could be characterized as wish-thinking. I prayed for relief from suffering and begged for circumstances to change; “according to Your will” punctuated these prayers, as if adding that phrase made them God-centered.
The truth was, my prayers centered around me, not God. Ouch.
I wanted my father to be healed…my husband to find the perfect job…the ministries I was involved with to prosper…for my kids to profess Christ as their Savior…broken friendships to be restored. All good things, even Godly things, but I cared much more about my wants than about God’s ways, His timing, and the work He was accomplishing in each situation.
In the midst of a tension-filled relationship with your in-laws—perhaps, one characterized by rudeness or cruelty or injustice or insensitivity—might it be that the change God most desires is yours? God is good. His concern is what’s best for His children. If we profess that, if we believe it, if it is true, then doesn’t it only make sense that whatever difficult circumstance we find ourselves in can ultimately be used for our good, God’s glory, and somehow for the advance of the gospel?
Muddy water cleared as God’s transforming work altered my perspective about, well…everything. As I earnestly sought God and shared my heart and hurts, He began changing ME, not the circumstances or people in my life. My responses were different; I clung to God’s promises that He had plans and a future for me. I learned that spiritual warfare is relentless within the context of relationship, and it thrills our enemy to destroy what should be loving bonds among family and friendships. It angered me to think how often I had handed Satan victory.
“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” ~ Ephesians 6:2, 3
As I write this, I have no idea what my (in)courage sisters will be writing about this month; with Valentine’s Day lingering, I speculated some might write about their own love stories; traditions and activities enjoyed with children; how God loves us in ways imagined and inconceivable.
My in-laws will celebrate their 70th birthdays this year and their 50th year of marriage; though imperfect, I’m blessed with a wonderful relationship with the two of them, and it hit me so many of my friends—online and off—aren’t able to say that. Even so, we’ve still had our difficult seasons over my 22 years of marriage; I’m convinced had my perspective and responses been different (God-centered instead of self-centered), those seasons wouldn’t have been such a big deal.
Remember “honor” and “love” are actions you must separate from feelings. Practical suggestions?
- Invite your in-laws for dinner on a specific day and time. Open invitations like “you’re welcome to dinner anytime” is not the same thing as a specific invitation. If they decline, invite them again. Then again.
- Send them a card on your husband’s birthday. This is something a friend told me she does every year, to thank her mother-in-law for giving her her husband. I can only imagine how full it fills her MIL’s tank. An alternative is to send an “anytime” card, outlining all the things you appreciate about your husband.
- Don’t take it personally if they can’t keep your kids. Some in-laws willingly babysit grandchildren “all” the time; others never do. Whatever your situation, remember: it is not their obligation.
- Stop keeping score. It’s easy to feel a sense of injustice if it seems like your in-laws are always doing something for siblings of your husband. Let it go–1) you don’t know the whole story, and 2) it serves no one and feeds bitterness. Grudge-holding weighs heavily on the one who bears it.
- Share news about your kids with them. Make a call. Mail artwork from school. Don’t put the onus on them to call.
So, lovies…I’m praying for you as I write; that God will impress upon your heart a renewed ability to honor Him as you discover fresh ways to love and honor your husband’s parents. Even when you have reason not to. Especially then.
Your turn: Do you have suggestions to add to mine? I bet “someone” will benefit if you take time to share YOUR ideas in comments!!
Photo credit: redheadedartist.com
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