4/27/11

The MIL-DIL "Stew" - Part 6 - Blessing Your In-Laws

Ah, the MIL-DIL "Stew." There is so much more that could be written about in-law relationships, and this series has only dealt with Mothers-in-law and Daughters-in-law!

We've examined various reasons for conflicts, changing roles, the challenges and positive aspects of differences, expectations, and the need for boundaries. But I don't want to leave this topic without suggesting some positive ways that we can bless our MILs and DILs.

I firmly believe that in-laws are special opportunities from God to practice a number of healthy, edifying attitudes. I believe there are six ways that you can bless your in-laws:

First, there is The Blessing of Acceptance. It's so easy to accept our natural blood relatives, even when they are quirky and eccentric. They are our relatives, and there is an element of familial pride involved. But when a couple marries, there will always be in-law adjustments. This does not have to be a threat. Rather, it can be an opportunity to learn new ways and stre-e-e-etch our old ways to fit a larger family. Acceptance is key. And yes, acceptance sometimes takes time, repeated exposure, and determination. But it has to start somewhere. Let it start with you. Accept one another (Romans 15:7).

MILs, understand that no matter what, your DIL is likely to put her own mother first. That is natural. Accept it. Understand that, even though they may experience conflict, your DIL's loyalties will normally align with her husband. That is normal; a good thing. Accept it. Try to see her viewpoint.

And DILs, understand that your MIL is always going to have a soft spot for her son. She'll always be his Mama, even though he's now a grown man. Respect that and accept it. Try to see her viewpoint.

Elisabeth Graham writes* that there are "two gracious acts of acceptance" often reported by DILs who have good relationships with their MILs: "She's a good listener" and "She never judges me." There is no room for hypersensitivity in acceptance. Though it's natural for a DIL to turn to her mother, an accepting DIL will take care not to make her MIL feel like she's playing second fiddle. She will value her MIL.

If you have seen the lack of acceptance or lack of valuing in in-law relationships in your heritage, ask God to help you end that cycle now ... with YOU! Remember that forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32) may be a prerequisite to your being able to accept your in-law. And God wants you to forgive for your well-being, not only the offender's benefit.

Closely related to acceptance is The Blessing of Affection. This is an outgrowth of love. It's another attitude that needs to grow in the in-law relationship. Unconditional, caring love is going to look different in each relationship, but it still is based in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Try viewing your in-law through this lens of biblical love, and ask God to help you show genuine affection ~ even if it is not returned.

And if your in-law is just plain nasty to you? Remember that God said we are to even love our "enemies" in practical "do good" ways, and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). It's not about our feelings. Determine to show affection to your in-law for Jesus sake; and if you still cannot love, ask Jesus to love her through you. Be a humble, willing channel (Romans 12:10), and watch what God does.

The Blessing of Affinity is a special opportunity as a woman of God. Though you and your in-law may have many differences, you also are both women with many experiences to share to help the other woman grow. Affinity is empathy, "being on the same wave length," insight with warmth.

Affinity takes time ~ we have to be hospitable (1 Peter 4:9) and spend time together before we understand each other and begin to think about what is important to our in-laws. If you will take the time to search for something in common as women, you may find the way to your in-law's heart.

Hopefully, each of you will enjoy The Blessing of Assistance. It is the proud woman indeed who thinks she needs no one. The truth is, we need each other. Women in the Body of Christ need each other for growth and edification; and if you have an in-law who does not know the Lord, she needs you, perhaps more than she knows. She needs to see Jesus "with skin on."

Pray for your in-law and ask God to show you practical ways to assist, serve, or care for her (Galatians 5:13b). Perhaps there is a way you can help her carry a burden (Galatians 6:2).

(This doesn't mean that boundaries can be violated. Be sure to ask your in-law if something you want to do is OK with her, first.) Service begins with humility, so be sure your heart is right.

Work toward The Blessing of Aspiration. Aim to give your in-law hope. Encourage her belief in God or spiritual growth. Spur her on; be her cheerleader (Hebrews 10:24)! Build her life (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Graham wrote that as she looked back over her years as a daughter-in-law, she realized that her relationship with her MIL improved as her relationship with God improved! So don't neglect your own walk with God. He can change attitudes and actions!

And finally, don't forget The Blessing of Appreciation. Express genuine thanks to your in-law for services rendered, counsel (asked for and) given, material gifts received, emotional encouragement, kindness expressed, etc. (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Perhaps you are not ready to enjoy all of these blessings at this time, but they are all worthy goals. They are, after all, "blessings." I pray that you will find innumerable ways to bless your in-laws in the days ahead!

* Mothers-in-Law vs. Daughters-in-Law: Let There Be Peace, by Elisabeth Graham (Beacon Hill Press, 2010), p. 103

1 comment:

Dawn Wilson said...

For another slant on MIL/DIL relations, check out these posts by Erin Davis at True Woman: "How to Live with, and Love, Your Mother-in-Law" (http://www.truewoman.com/?id=1713) and "How to Live with, and Love, Your Daughter-in-Law" (http://www.truewoman.com/?id=1714).