Liz Curtis Higgs
"Loving the Other Mother"
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)
The truth? I am not what my mother-in-law prayed for. She would have been happy with Mary or Martha as a wife for her godly son. Instead, she got Rahab. That is to say, a former bad girl, slightly tattered around the edges, continually grateful for God’s grace.
Because I lost my own mother to emphysema in my twenties, the idea of getting to know my husband’s mother was both thrilling and intimidating. Given time, I hoped we might become mother-daughter close. But as each year went by, I became less certain of my place in her heart.
Did Mary Lee Higgs love me for making her son happy and giving her two brilliant grandchildren? Yes, absolutely.
But did she like me as a person? Approve of me as a daughter-in-law? I wasn’t entirely sure, and so I emotionally held her at arm’s length, guarding my still-tender heart.
Yes, I did all the right things, especially on Mother’s Day — greeting cards, fresh flowers, dinners out, nice gifts. But I wasn’t fully invested in her happiness the other 364 days of the year, in part because I had no idea what might please her most.
Then I became a mother-in-law. Oh.
I quickly began making amends with Mary Lee, finally understanding the one thing she needed from me — unconditional love, expressed in as many ways as possible. Because of God’s kindness (and her patience), our last five years together were sweeter than all the years that came before them combined.
If you have a mother-in-law, it’s never too late to strengthen or rebuild your one-of-a-kind relationship. Which of these practical ideas might work best for you?
Praise her good points.
Just as you may wonder if she likes you, your mother-in-law may think you don’t like her. So, "Honor her for all that her hands have done … " (Proverbs 31:31a, NIV), praise her every chance you get and help put her unspoken fears to rest.
Brag about her son.
At any age, mothers long to know they did a good job. Sincerely compliment your husband’s fine character or commendable actions, then watch his mother light up, just as God’s Word says: " … may she who gave you birth be joyful!" (Proverbs 23:25b, NIV).
Forget the MIL jokes.
Humorists have milked the stereotype of the overbearing mother-in-law for ages. Even if it’s funny, such humor hurts rather than heals. Look for laughs elsewhere and hold her in high regard. "Give to everyone what you owe them … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:7, NIV).
Request a favorite recipe.
Gourmet or everyday, her home-cooked meals fed your growing husband. Find out his favorite dish and ask his mother to share the recipe. Like you, "… she provides food for her family …" (Proverbs 31:15b, NIV), and might be tickled for one of her dishes to become your favorite.
Be all in.
In Scripture, Ruth’s pledge to stick faithfully by her mother-in-law Naomi, whatever their future might hold, sets a high bar for us all: "… Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay" (Ruth 1:16b, NIV). If necessity required it, could you welcome your mother-in-law into your home? Or willingly live under her roof? Does she know that?
Show your gratitude for the woman who raised the man you love. She wasn’t a perfect mother, but she was his mother. Still is. Always will be. Even after she’s gone, honor her memory and be grateful for everything she did and was. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).
As relationships go, this one can be complicated, which means it also has the potential to go deep and wide. Open your heart, my friend. Let her in.
Father God, our earthly relationships give us the chance to mirror our heavenly relationship with You. No matter where things stand with our mothers-in-law right now, help us be more loving, more grace-giving, and more kind in the days ahead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (NIV)
Leviticus 19:32a, "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God …" (NIV)