Several weeks ago, I mentioned that I would blog about my MIL in effort to encourage those whose relationships with in laws are not all they'd hoped for. I've chewed on this for awhile and really struggled with how to approach this while being tactful and respectful and yet candid and honest all at once. I think I've come up with a way to accomplish this and hope that through this post you understand my heart and the struggle that this has been on all involved...
I had always hoped to have an awesome relationship with my husband's family (at the time, I did not know Joe or have any idea what my future husband's family would "look" like, but you get the idea). As a person that was thrown into a life as an only child, it was my desire to marry someone with siblings so that I could have nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, and a great relationship with my in laws. And, so far, only part of that has happened for me. Even though it isn't ALL that I wanted, I am so blessed and grateful for my brother in law, sister in law, niece, and nephew.
To summarize my MIL is quite difficult. Think "Everybody Loves Raymond"....that is how our lives would be if we were geographically near my MIL. Without airing too much "dirty laundry" and listing out all of the things that have frustrated me about my MIL, I will leave it at the comparison to Marie Barone. As much as she makes me crazy, and as much as I believe that she needs to take responsibility for her actions and try to help herself by seeking help (whether in the form of wise friends, a counselor, a new hobby, etc...) one thing is for certain, my MIL is hurting. She is a woman who lives in fear with much anxiety over things that are not hers to be anxious over. And, to be frank, if she spent the time trying to help herself that she spends meddling in others' business, she would be in better shape emotionally and psychologically. I believe that there are emotional and psychological barriers that we can experience, but I also believe that we need to work through those and move on and not "swipe the card" for the rest of our lives by saying "that is just how I am" or "just ignore me."
While my in laws were here visiting, my goal was to be as busy as possible. This was my way of ensuring that I did not have time to idly chat with my MIL and end up saying something I would regret after keeping it bottled up for months. This plan did not work out completely, and we did have a "Come to Jesus Meeting" as I like to call it. One thing I asked my MIL in the course of that discussion was whether she had any friends that lived near her. She told me she did not. At that moment, despite how I feel about her in general, I began to feel a bit sorry for her, even though I had known that truth for quite some time. She told me that if someone from the neighborhood or from her church wanted something from her, then they had no problem asking for her help. But, they did not often seek her out to do social things, they'd only reach out to her with a need or a want (my words, not hers). I told her I would pray that she would make friends and hope that people would see her for more than just what they could get from her.
There's some background....here is my revelation:
In Sunday School this morning, we were talking about the scripture that calls us to carry others' burdens. Of course, it started out with the generic Sunday School answer of "pray for them"---then we began to discuss (metaphorically) physically carrying burdens with and for people. We talked mainly about people carrying bricks. If a friend was walking down the street with 10 bricks, would we say "Hey, great job with those bricks! I'm prayin' for ya!" or would we pick up a couple of the bricks to lighten the load, go halvsies, or pick up more than that??? Then we discussed why people become wary of carrying burdens for others...This got me thinking about my MIL on a couple of levels.
1. As annoying as it is, she tries to carry others' burdens. Her way of doing so crosses boundaries, and does not cease even when she is assured no help is needed, warranted, or asked for. But, she is still burdened by our burdens (and even sometimes by her perception or made up version of our "burdens" which is when we all want to pull our hair out). She often misconstrues things too, but that is part of her burden process I suppose....
2. I shared with the SS class the conversation about my MIL's "friends." The story got a few laughs in the beginning, but overall I was sharing how she has become wary of carrying the burdens of her neighbors and those in her congregation because she feels used and not fulfilled. I think we all know how that feels to some degree, and I truly do feel sorry for her that she feels that way. We have all talked about and hoped and prayed for her to have positive relationships with women in her area. But, I am beginning to wonder what other ways I can help carry those bricks. Prayer is a powerful thing, but when appropriate and able, it is far more powerful to pray and carry bricks. This for me is a slippery slope as I know that I can't carry bricks without her feeling like she is carrying my bricks as well. In normal circumstances, that wouldn't be too bad. In these circumstances, I believe it could contribute to the problem of her not respecting boundaries. I'm really torn, but believe God is turning the wheels in my mind for a reason....
Do I reach out to her and tell her that I'd like to carry her bricks by being a friend to her? Can I genuinely be a friend to her if I constantly have to be guarded so as not to fuel the fire? If I don't live near her, can I really carry the bricks when she REALLY needs someone to go have coffee at chat with that lives in her community??? What does carrying the bricks look like in this case???
All of these are things I hope to figure out....it may take me awhile though!
Any thoughts out there in Blog Land?