The first time I got a glimpse of what my future mother-in-law was like I was 15. Her son and I had been penpals for a little over a year by then and his decision to join his parents' church prompted her to write and tell me his choice meant he could no longer be in contact with me. His family belonged to an ultra conservative church where dating was non-existent and even having a penpal of the opposite sex stretched the limits of right and wrong. My young heart was broken. The story of how we eventually met and married when I was 19 is a long one but for now just know that the first time I met my mother-in-law in person, it was a shock. My husband-to-be had mentioned he was Mennonite(he thought it would be self explanatory) so he didn't explain that meant his sisters and mother wore dresses and headcoverings, had no TV or radio in their home and higher education was looked upon as an unnecessary evil. I had just graduated from college with the majority of my subjects being journalism, TV and radio related. My attire was more about showing off my figure than hiding it, plus I was an atheist to boot. Whew. No doubt they were in shock, too.
The night before we wed dearest one's parents sat him down and tried to get him to call off the wedding. He dismissed their concerns and 5 pm the next afternoon found us before the justice of the peace making vows that have lasted 24 years now. I have to hand it to my mother-in-law. Once that ring was on my finger she let go of her prejudices and welcomed me as a daughter(she already had 5 of her own plus several other daughters-in-law). It was a done deal in her books and that was that. At the time I was an antagonistic teenager who had no respect for parents or authority and I tried my damnedest to let them know I didn't care a wit for their faith either. They were gracious at every turn. Every turn (including the time I showed up at their house in a pair of short shorts and a negligee top). I know this woman must have cried buckets of tears and prayed many prayers as she watched her son begin married life. She never let on the turmoil she was in. Not once.
This afternoon I paid her a visit. Dearest one had told her on the phone that I wanted to talk to her of sons and their girlfriends and all that entailed. We had a good visit, with her doing the listening and saying very little, but with both of us knowing she knew exactly what I was going through because I had once been the girlfriend that she would have rather her son grown weary of. When we had talked the whole thing through she told me I had much to be thankful for.
I have so much to learn from her.
I have cried my own tears and prayed my own prayers about the relationship my youngest son has chosen for himself. This afternoon, while walking in the spring rain, I sensed a willingness in my spirit to let it all go, I mean truly let go of how I want this world to work when it comes to my son. There was a peace that God was big enough to handle it, whichever way it goes, that enabled me to unclench my fists and let go. I thought this day would never come. God worked out in my Spirit what I couldn't work out in my flesh. I can't make choices for my son just like my mother-in-law couldn't make choices for hers. But once they are made I can choose to be supportive as he and his girlfriend muddle through this thing called life and love.
A big part of my struggle has been facing how ugly I can be if life doesn't go my way. I never knew the depth of judgment, rigidity and lack of love I was capable of until I saw it played out in real life. My life. I verbalized outloud to myself today that if truth be told, I just wanted my son to break up with his girlfriend so that our relationship could go back to what it had been. (As horrible as it is to admit, I've felt more than slighted at going from being the only woman in his life to not even registering on his radar screen anymore.) As soon as I verbalized my thoughts I saw how unhealthy and unrealistic it was to want to go backwards and repeal the growth in both our lives. And then I laughed outloud at myself.
The last week or so the phrase "Look for the good." has been swirling around in my head. Sometime between last night and tonight I became willing to do that. In him. In her. And in myself, too.