I am an extra *mature woman* in a class meant for young moms on Wednesday mornings at church. Our pastor's wife leads a break-out class for these ladies called "Focusing on Family" and she does a great job in preparing a weekly study for us to do, in conjunction to the chapter that we read each week on our own. It's a great time of fellowship, encouragement, and memories for me as I dredge through the memories of when I was a young mom...MANY years ago!!
Yesterday, after class, one of the young mom's asked when we could have a conversation on "In-Laws". I cringed. This is not a topic that I can offer much encouragement in....and I filled her in on the details, expanding that for the record, my experience with my own parental units isn't much better.
The hope came in the fact that I think that it is completely normal for parents/children/grandchildren to not get along. Especially, and this is the key, when one generation (or another) is following Jesus, and the others are not (and worst when the older ones are not).
I'm going to post an article that relates to this to the bottom of the page, and continue to write while I have my thoughts on it...
My father and I are very different - we used to be very much the same, but then I met Jesus - and I was changed - a LOT - and as I continue to walk with Him and adhere to His teachings, my relationship with my earthly father deteriorates. I struggled with it for years, many of them living just 15 miles away and inviting him over for every imaginable reason, wanting to have family, and being denied it because of what he and his current wife wanted (he's in his 4th marriage). After some good godly friend advice, a few months in therapy, and a LOT of prayer, I realized that I had done everything I could do to be a "good daughter" and that the problem wasn't mine, it was his. I was making his problem mine, and I had to allow myself to forgive and accept that we don't - and won't - have a close relationship. It was ok, until we moved. Then he laid a guilt trip on me (manipulation is key with him/them) about us being so far away (when they won't see us in the same town?) and how would we be available to help (when they don't allow us to now anyways). I picked up the "good daughter banner" again, although with less enthusiasm, and made the move with my husband - and it's been great.
Jump to my in-law relationship. My own mom died when I was almost 13 and so I was thrilled to have such a great mother in law when Mark and I married. Unfortunately, she was not thrilled to get me - at least initially - but once the grandkids all came around she was a gracious grandmother and mother in law, and I enjoyed several years of friendship. I loved her, admired her, and although she is not a follower of Jesus, I enjoyed "spiritual discussions" with her and prayed for her to see the truth of Jesus. In most ways, I revered her as my "mom", since my own dad had gone through another marriage/divorce and marriage. When my father-in-law died, we drew especially close...it was very special season of life shared.
When she entered into a relationship with another man, we had reservations, and were honest about them. When an unfortunate incident occurred, something I won't go in to here in detail, but one that caused great emotional pain for me, she pulled out all her "true feelings for me" and poured them into emails that were heartbreaking even more. It was painfully communicated that she never did approve of me, hiding her feelings; then accusing me of "always" manipulating situations, doing/saying anything to be the center of attention, and driving a wedge to keep her and her son apart. I was floored. This was never an intention (we had even discussed her living with us as she got older), never my motivation.
Not only was I brought through emotional trauma of a former abusive situation, but I lost my closest relationship with the person I considered my "mom", and found out she despised me. Then, months later, when I finally gave in to share the situation with my father, he misunderstood a statement that I referred to on this abuse, and he brought up a declaration that he himself had abused me! I was shattered even more, but it shed light on so much of my confused past, and I finally understood so much more. I now knew why he didn't bring charges against the man who abused me as a child, why he never took me to counseling, to a doctor. I understood why whenever I did something wrong I was met with "you haven't done anything worse than what I've done", and why each of his wives were so much younger than he, the last one not much older than me (and younger than my half sisters). I still don't recall any incidents with him, leading me to believe that it was either so traumatic I've blocked it from memory, or that I was drugged - this was the era of "sex, drugs, rock and roll" in Southern California.
I understood too, why God allowed the distance to be placed between my family and my dad - for whatever reason it would be - it protected my own children and I now don't have to worry about them being made a victim of his abuse. The hurt I felt for not having a great relationship with him, for not having him there to see the kids on holidays and enjoy seeing their accomplishments growing up, suddenly became God's protection.
So, forgiveness...where did it all come into play??
I had forgiven my abuser when i first became a Christian - confessing my own sin and the role that Satan played in perpetuating it, I recognized that my abuser was also caught up in a web of addiction that Satan cast out. I had to own up to my decisions, but realizing the source of those behaviors - how could I not forgive the one that hurt me?? A few years later he became a believer!!
I had forgiven my mother in law, as painful as it was, and her life partner. I would not, could not, allow myself to be put in a compromising spot again - but she also has chosen to not see us without him. We are at an impasse. (for the record, a few of our family members, including my husband, were not fond of some of his inappropriate language/actions before the unfortunate incident, so this was just frosting on the cake). Even if this didn't happen, we wouldn't be vacationing with him/them.
I had to forgive my dad and his actions of years ago, and the woman he was living with at that time, for allowing something like that to have happened. It is water under the bridge, and history could not be changed...it was what it was, and he was still my dad.
I had to forgive myself, again, for all the years I didn't trust His will in all of this; for fighting for family meals and get togethers. For wanting to have relationship with an earthly family more than a heavenly one. For placing my heart in the hands of imperfect humans instead of trusting God with the details of family - and seeing the wonderful Christian family He consistently placed around me to love me and my family.
So, forgiveness is paramount. Unforgiveness can drive a wedge between God and ourselves, another thing that keeps us from communion with Him. I wasn't willing to have that.
The funny thing? Those that I admire most in their Christian Walk, those that seemingly have it all together, and have wonderful relationship with their kids at home, we share something in common. Almost always, they too have fractured families. Satan seems to like to attack our family unit. So I'll keep serving Jesus, loving my imperfect family on their terms while protecting my life/heart/body. I'll trust God to put mentor/leaders in my life to guide me and set an example, and continue to pray for my earthly family that need Jesus love so much - to fill their lonliness, to be their life partners - for them to not be believers - but FOLLOWERS - of Jesus. That is my prayer.
And it's ok for me to leave some distance between us...a little space for God to work...on me too...
"“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39
It can be so hard to get along with family members - I think that this problem has gone on as long as man has walked the earth!
Sometimes we’re surprised when situations arise, especially if we have good memories of peaceful times, but Jesus reminds us that He made it this way. After all, if we got along too well, we might put our love for our family above our love for Him.
I think too, that He intended it to be this way so that we would turn to Him during times that we would want to turn to others. How often we want to ask and take other’s opinions and advice to heart, when possibly we are simply to turn to our Savior and wait on His movement in our lives.
Recently I heard a teaching on who we are wanting God to be for us. The pastor pointed out how we often are wanting God to provide a matchmaker, a career counselor, a financial advisor or a marriage counselor for us...but what God gave us - through Jesus - was a Savior. THAT is what we need the most, and if we draw near to Him, believe His words, follow His teachings and examples - THEN all these other things will be taken care of. It might not be in the standards we are wanting today, and He may change our hearts (and priorities) to reflect the influence He is having in our lives, but He WILL provide.
Often we treat our parents, or children, the same way. We confide in them, expect them to meet all our needs, are disappointed when they let us down, and hold them to an unrealistic standard. I think that sometimes we get in the way of the work that God is trying to do in our family. I’m convicted of this often in my own life, and see the strife it causes in relationships. Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke this teaching to us, to remind us that we are always called to loved HIM more than our own family members.
Although this is the “month of love”, perhaps we ought to turn our hearts to the One that loves us the best, knows our deepest needs, and created us to worship Himself. Instead of asking Him to be our matchmaker, our marriage counselor, or any of the other “positions” we expect Him to be, let’s simply love Him as our Savior, with “all our heart, soul, strength, and mind...” (Luke 10:27).
Grace and peace,
(Connection Magazine of SW Missouri; February edition C2011)