I am not sure about the rest of the world but at least in the Indian context, in-laws, especially of a woman are often painted in not-so-rosy shades. Growing up, I had seen and heard enough stories of neglect and/or abuse by a woman's in-laws even in so-called educated and well off sections of society. Television soaps paint an even more dramatic picture of saas and bahu dynamics in Indian households. It's almost like a tug-of-war between the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law with the husband/son as the rope! Unfortunately, some newspaper reports on dowry related crimes confirm such theories.
Thankfully, this post has much brighter shades. Before getting married, I had the opportunity of visiting Rajesh's parents' house a few times. The first time I visited, I was almost shocked at how closely knit their extended family was. It was very different from my extended family that may have been closer when we were kids, but not so much now. Cousins, aunts and grannies were very much part of the family I was about to marry into. Perhaps I was hoping for only a handful of people I had to impress and please but there they were- a dozen of them like a jury with clipboards in hand!
I am not sure if it was their love for Rajesh and vice versa or that I completely floored them with my awesomeness(obviously the latter), in a few hours, I felt I was almost a part of this family. Just like that. There were plenty of questions, giggles and teasing from the grown-ups and the cousins but at no point did they make me feel like I didn't belong. After that first time, I'd look for any opportunity to visit.
Since I was just beginning to learn Telugu, my conversations with Amma used to be quite brief -sometimes even through a translator like my sister-in-law or Rajesh. One of my main motivations to learn Telugu was so I could talk freely with her (other than being able to understand any backbiting about me). Over the years I have understood her heart for God, family, hospitality and generosity.
My mother-in-law a perfect example of a wife who loved her husband to death. She suffered hardships in her marriage early on but persevered depending on the Word of God. She taught her children to read the word of God daily and to depend on His strength. Because of her perfect devotion to God and her security in Him, she has no fear or insecurity about her son. She doesn't worry about the wicked daughter-in-law snatching her innocent son away from her. I know I am blessed and privileged to have a mother-in-law like this, who rarely demands anything of me, except perhaps to feed my kids properly but then which grandma doesn't(rolling my eyes)!
Before my father-in-law went to be with the Lord a few years ago, he'd make sure to spend time with me to sit and chat every time we'd visit. He'd make me feel really loved and valued. He'd often say how glad he was that his son married me and that he didn't have to worry about him anymore. He'd take me along to the local vegetable or fish markets in town and even let me ride his scooter around- not a common sight in rural Andhra. He didn't bother with the 'what would people say?' mentality even though it was a small town in southern India. He was well-read and that reflected in his thinking and conversations. Rajesh and most of his cousins adored him.
The other family member that I have gained through marriage is a sister. My sister-in-law has been my constant friend, confidant and a major connect to the rest of the family. While my own sister is miles away, I take comfort in the fact that I have one sister within reach. She has inherited her mother's loving and generous heart and I am so grateful for that. She is passionate and strong-willed, something that she has in common with her brother. We love chatting in the kitchen, enjoy shopping together, and sometimes even complain about our husbands. Not to mention, I have gained plenty of young cousins who are not little any more but have grown into mature young men and women who love generously and are loved in return.
I am thankful to God for the wonderful family He has blessed me with, through marriage. Though I admit, like most families, we've had our share of misunderstandings and unmet expectations but by God's grace we have managed to talk and walk through such times together and discovered more love and grace for each other. Love covers all our short comings, especially the love of Christ.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 corinthians 13: 4-7)
Though I didn't get to witness any of the hardcore in-law oppression first-hand that I heard about before marriage, I do understand some of you may be in difficult family situations with your in-laws 11`(older or younger) and I want to encourage you to hang in there, trust the Lord to guide you in His love and grace through His word. May God fill us with enough love, grace and humility for each day at a time.
I was encouraged and motivated recently through a study of the Book of Ruth, by how Ruth loves, honours and serves her mother-in-law even after her husband's death. Their bond was really special, God-made, something we can only hope and pray for, for ourselves and for our daughters. I've seen my mother-in-law love like Ruth and take care of her husband's side of the family years after he's gone. Sometimes we don't need to look too far to find real life inspirations, they may be right here in our families.
What has God been teaching you through your extended family? What have been some of your special or funny moments with your in-laws? Do share in the comments below.
Photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash
Christy!!!! So beautiful. You do have a beautiful family! What a blessing to have wonderful in laws!
Thanks Deepa!! Yes, such a blessing, right.
Very well written Christy! I can proudly vouche for the writing as a part of the family. We are blessed to have you as a our in-law.
Thanks Priya! Love you!
I can never forget the day I first met you bhabiji. So humble, loving, caring and jovial enough to tease us.. like i always say..... you are a blessing to our family..
Thanks Pradeep! Can't imagine you'd remember. You were a little boy then 😛
Wonderful Christy.....ver well written....
Thanks Prasanna!! Daughters-in-law in the same family! 😉
You are a blessing to our family Christy.. I learned so many things from you.. you are always an inspiration
I want to thank God for two things..Firstly for helping us to be good in-laws and secondly for giving us a God-fearing , ever caring and loving daughter. And also thank you for your kind words.
Great Christy <3