Chasing after the wind.


A while back, I read an article that was talking about poor relationships with in-laws and making suggestions about how to “fix” that problem. The article, written by someone with good in-law relationships, was essentially based on the idea that you should check your own attitude first and if you are nice and pray a lot, the relationship will improve over time. I do agree that you should check your own attitude, and I am in favor of praying a lot. But the article itself filled me with a helpless rage. Because we are talking here about people who rejected me to the point that they did not come to our wedding, people we have not spoken to in ten years. Ten years is a lot of life to live without them. I will confess that I do not pray about the situation anymore, because I think God knows how I feel. And what else is there to say at this point? But I also think that being nice and praying a lot wouldn’t do much of anything at all. There is no system that works when we are talking about broken, hurting people. We have to do the best we can. And sometimes the best we can do still looks and feels like a mess. I know the article wasn’t written for people like me, but I wish there had been more of an acknowledgement of . . . the difficulty of it all.

Over the summer, when my pastor was preaching on Dr. Seuss stories, one of the sermons featured The Zax. In it, he encouraged us to take the necessary risks to work on healing broken relationships. After the sermon, I went to him and said, essentially, “What am I supposed to DO with something like this? Because I would love to have a good relationship with my in-laws, but that seems to be out of the question.” And he told me that what we are experiencing wasn’t the kind of situation he was talking about, and that we should keep on making our lives with the people who love us. If we feel nudges to do something different, we should follow them, but we can’t choose a different sort of life for people who have un-chosen us. I need to hear those words of grace from time to time, because I want to do what is right, and I want what is right to be a plan of action, something that will fix this brokenness.

Lent is often a time to focus on our own mortality. From dust you were made, and to dust you will return. Alleluia and amen. If you are anything like me, what you have been given, both good and bad, is not what you expected at all. I do not have advice for people with difficult in-law relationships (or even good in-law relationships), because I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t have a relationship with my parents-in-law at all. I think that the advice to look at your own attitude and to pray a lot is probably good in those situations, though I will acknowledge that I know that relationships are complicated. I do believe in redemption, but I think it does not always take the form or figure we would like, choosing instead to surprise us in complicated, unexpected ways. At church, this week’s scripture text was from Ecclesiastes, which are a good reminder that we can see things as meaningless, or we can make the choice to do the best we can with what we have.

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