By Alan Smith
A newlywed farmer and his wife were visited by her mother, who immediately demanded an inspection of the place. The farmer genuinely tried to be friendly to his new mother-in-law, hoping their relationship could be friendly and non-antagonistic. It was all to no avail, though, as she kept nagging them at every opportunity, demanding changes, offering unwanted advice, and generally making life unbearable to the farmer and his new bride.
While they were walking through the barn during the forced inspection, the farmer's mule suddenly reared up and kicked the mother-in-law in the head, killing her instantly. It was a shock to all of them, no matter what their feelings were toward her demanding ways.
At the funeral service a few days later, the farmer stood near the casket and greeted folks as they walked by. The preacher noticed that whenever a woman would whisper something to the farmer, he would nod his head yes and say something.
But whenever a man walked by and whispered to the farmer, he would shake his head no, and mumble a reply. Very curious as to this bizarre behavior, the preacher later asked the farmer what that was all about.
The farmer replied, "The women would say, 'What a terrible tragedy' and I would nod my head and say 'Yes, it was.' The men would then ask, 'Can I borrow that mule?' and I would shake my head and say, 'Can't, it's all booked up for a year.'"
We often make jokes about in-laws (especially mothers-in-law), but the family of our spouse can be quite a blessing to us.
When we read of in-laws in the Bible, we find some relationships that were good and some that were not so good. There was Jacob and the struggle he had with his father-in-law Laban (if you think your in-laws are bad, imagine one that would switch daughters at the wedding ceremony!). There was Moses and the good relationship he had with his father-in-law Jethro.
But the most beautiful in-law relationship described in the Bible was between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Listen to these words spoken by Ruth to Naomi, words which have been repeated in countless wedding ceremonies:
"Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me." (Ruth 1:16-17)
What a beautiful pledge of love and loyalty! If you are married, may I encourage you to do something today you may not have done in quite a while -- give thanks to God for your in-laws.
- Alan Smith, minister for the Cruciform Church of Christ in Spring Lake, North Carolina, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the congregation's website: http://www.cruciformcoc.com/