If you're married, do you remember the moment you realized having/being an in'law wasn't going to be as easy as you thought? When it comes to family, it isn't enough to really want to be a part of the family, to be in love with your mate, or even to try your best. Extended family relationships can be prickly, and many couples say it's one element of married life that creates stress. Add to that the holidays, and you have the equivalent of a dried up Christmas tree too close to the fireplace = it only takes a spark ... You know the rest. :)
I've hesitated to deal with this one, partly because talking to people about in-laws is so very, very personal. Remember, I'm married too! For married folk determined to keep speech "seasoned" with grace, this subject is sometimes like pepper spray. I remember how engaged friends received calls and gifts from "mother-in-laws (MIL) to be," welcoming them many miles to attend showers. Others spoke little to their MIL, trembling at the thought, trying not to show pain from ignored invitations. Some easily called their MIL "Mom," while others awkwardly avoided calling her anything ... especially at close range.
Every experience is different, and it's not true you "only marry your mate." Families go with us into marriage. For those who receive a heritage of unconditional love with supportive embrace, it is a gift. For those who receive painful rejection or indifference with their "I do," it can be added to the category of marital challenges to pray over and answer with God's truth.
As we approach the holidays, a mind filled with God's truth is a valuable resource for married couples entering the minefield of family decisions. If you're shaking your head and claiming you can't relate, count yourself blessed, but realize you're in the minority. It isn't easy for parents to release their children to oneness with someone else, to absorb new ways of doing things, and to change with the seasons of life. Basic rules for families of faith apply:
- Ask God for insight to see family from the parents'/in-laws' perspectives. Phil. 2:3-4
- We know that as adults we cease to obey, but we continue to honor. Eph. 6:1-3
- Honoring parents is a way of honoring our spouse. Prov. 31:11-12
- Basic rules apply to in-laws too: Love your enemies & neighbors, repay evil with good ... 1 Peter 3:9
- Being "family" doesn't change "rules" of dealing w/unbelievers or believers. Colossians 4:5-6
- We need to do to others as we want them to do to us. Matt. 7:12
- God is not honored when we're selfish, even if we're treated selfishly. Phil. 2:3-4
- Even in the holidays .... Being married requires we leave our parents. (More on this later this week ...) Gen. 2:24
- Especially in the holidays ... Being married requires we cleave to our spouse (More on this later this week ...) Gen. 2:24
- It's just reality ... being married means we're going to get peeved. ;) ( I couldn't resist! Yes, more on that later this week, too ...)
Jesus is such a beautiful example to us of a child's relationship with His earthly, flawed parents. When He wandered from his family and was found, I can just hear Mary saying, "Jesus! You get back here. I've been worried sick about you! Don't you ever leave me again ..." :) But even the divine God, in the form of a boy, was respectful and obedient to His mom. (Read the Luke 2:40-52 account here. So neat!) When He was leaving her (a mom's reality), He called down from His cross to ask John to care for her. Honor. Even the divine Son of God honored His mother ... He didn't necessarily do what she wanted, and He wasn't going to be the one to care for her as she aged, but Jesus honored her by treating her as precious. (Read the John 19:25-27 account here. So beautiful!)
Are you going to spend time with the in-laws this holiday season? Are you the elder in-law or the younger in-law? Whatever our season of life when we come to the holiday table, our Heavenly Father still calls us to love each other. (1 John 4)
There's so much more to consider about this important topic, so let's do. In the coming days, we'll look more closely at what leaving & cleaving have to do with the holidays, practical ways to manage the minefield out there, and encouraging truths to hang on the mantle of our minds.
Come back this week for:
- One of my favorite holiday recipes from my own MIL's kitchen
- A "first holiday season" story we can all learn from
- A survey
- How to answer the question: "Did you leave yet?"
Oh, I hope you'll stop in for all the fun! It's good to laugh at the challenges of marriage & family. :) Sign up to get the blog updates by email if you haven't. Target has Christmas decorations up, my radio station is playing Christmas music (seriously folks, it's a little early ...), and this Friday night is our women's holiday event. So .... Merry Marriage Mondays!