What if we stop looking at our mothers-in-law (and father-, sons-, daughters-in-laws) as if they are our obligatory family by marriage and simply treat them as a neighbour?
You have heard it said, “God has no grandchildren.”
Yes, we are all, as believers, ‘children of God’.
In heaven it matters no more that we might have been related as fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, or in-laws, or even ‘out-laws’!
In heaven, believing sons- and mothers-in-law are brothers and sisters.
Even slaves are no longer slaves in God’s sight (Galatians 4:7): “you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, also an heir through God”.
Here, of course, Paul is teaching of how slave and free alike become the sons of God when they believe in Jesus. If the boundary between slavery and liberty can be broken by the broken body of Christ, why not the boundary between in-laws?
OK, that is not very good for stand-up comics who thrive on ‘mother-in-law’ jokes.
What about Jesus’s commandment that ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
If I love myself, then, in obedience, I must love my mother-/father-/son-/daughter-in-law. As MYSELF. No more. No less. No but’s.
My son turns sixteen in a few weeks’ time. The last two years had been difficult for me.
My sweet young thing whom I had taught “hooligan or gentleman?” and “time and place for everything”, p’s and q’s and a firm handshake, he wanted little to do with mum because he is a teenage boy.
Sometimes he was so rude and scathing I physically hurt. I wondered whether I had wasted a lifetime being a stay-at-home mother, giving up all possibility of becoming a university professor.
I would say that I am seeing some light at the end of this long, long tunnel. Hallelujah!
More importantly he is growing up in such a way I found myself thinking: respect.
I have to respect my son for his insights. I have equipped him with the tools to get on with life and now he is helping me to get on with my life by sharing his insights.
These things I wish to remember, God willing:
First, whatever differences I might have with my mother-in-law, she played a big part in making my husband what he is: that husband I chose to marry.
The Chinese has a saying, ying shui si yuan: when you drink water, reflect on its source.
My wonderful husband is what he is because of what his parents made him.
Second, in anticipation of the day I acquire a daughter-in-law, I want to respect her decision in choosing my son as her husband. Surely a person who makes that very wise choice cannot be a ‘bad’ person.
I remember vividly the first time my in-laws stood at my front door after my mum died. Mum-in-law said, “We are your only parents now.”
I nearly cried. I was their daughter. Full stop. No hyphens.
In view of what I have been thinking today, maybe I don’t even need to aspire to be a good mother-in-law after all.
If there are no mothers-in-law in heaven I should jolly well start practising loving my (future) daughter-in-law first as a fellow believer/neighbour/friend, and then perhaps the in-law/out-law business would ‘fall into place’ (ie become unimportant).
We manage to love so many others despite their faults. Why should we set higher standards for a daughter/mother-in-law?
8 Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another, for the one who loves someone else has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does not commit evil against a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)