Sunday 23 February 2014
Speaker: Pastor Oluyide Ukachi
During a trip with a young man from Western Europe studying on a year abroad program in Nigeria, I asked him, based on his experience, to compare the educational systems of Nigeria and his country. He reflected for a few seconds, then with a very calm voice, he respectfully asked ‘Ms. Ukachi, do you want an honest answer or a polite response?’ I understood why he needed to ask me that- he felt an honest answer may offend me. I told him I wanted to have his honest opinion of education in my country, even if it would offend me or make me feel bad for my country. I had to reassure him that I would not take whatever he said against him. I would rather have him tell me the truth as he perceived it, than lie to me just to soothe me.
He’s Alive Chapel (HAC), what do you say? Do you want a polite soothing and inoffensive message or a sincere one? The polite message will make you feel good, but the honest one will bring correction to your life. You must answer; which one do you want?
The truth is, no matter how hard we try there are no quick-fix answers to conflicts, disagreement or just plain different points of view we will have in our families and marriages.
But God can help us know the difference between good and bad, and move on our hearts to do what is right.
We are all work in progress, but the difference between one person and the other may just be different levels of yielded-ness. Even now God is still using my own marriage and family experiences, as well as the experiences of others to groom me. It follows I must be willing to learn and work on necessary areas that need change. Why? If I don’t make changes, then it means I want to remain in the rot. Also, if I don’t have it, I can’t give it. If it did not work out well in my home I can’t tell people it will work out well in theirs.
In earlier years, I sometimes gave not just bad counsel but unchristian-like counsel such as: ‘Don’t take rubbish’ to Mrs. D, a lady corper serving in the school where I taught back in the eighties, Mrs. Eb, a sister who my husband and I mentored, and Mrs. L, a member of our neighborhood fellowship. God corrected me and commissioned me to give wise counsel, which I have done all these years to God’s glory.
Even now I’ve not graduated from God’s School of Marriage and Family Life. Have you?
Sometimes the Lord’s instruction or the way He chooses for us to travel may not even make sense. In those times I’ll say “Lord I don’t get it…how can this be and You still want me to handle matters in this way?” or “Ok Lord see this see that”, or “Ok Lord what am I to do now?”. It may not be easy or smooth but He leads us. Gently He leads us.
Many times the Psalmist said ‘Lead me’, ‘Guide me’ etc. If we’re not willing to be guided, if we’re not teachable, if we’re set in our way and insist on it, then it’s no use praying that kind of prayer. At other times the Psalmist said ‘Search me oh Lord, and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in your everlasting way’. Your own way may be a bad way, it may even be a wicked and selfish way. God’s way is the best way….but you must choose it. He can’t force it on you. I have a poster on a wall in the school that says “Teachers open the way, but you must enter in yourself”.
Don’t insist on your way- don’t say it is either my way or the high way. There was an issue between me and my husband. God moved on my heart to concede to him on that issue and I obeyed the Lord. At the end of the day God gave me a better deal than I would have had if I had striven with him. God has the power to give you the best deal in any situation, but like I did you must choose to obey Him. That’s the condition.
How many here want to be led and guided? Will you do what He says? If we’re not willing to change, we are not willing to succeed.
If you have been going your way you need to make a change’. My GPS prompts me whenever I take a wrong turn. It will let me know that I can take an alternative route. It will say things like ‘Recalculating’ meaning you have missed the way but I will recalculate for you and lead you on the right way again, or it can say ‘Make a U-Turn’. If the path you are taking will not lead you or your family to the land of peace, joy, prosperity and fulfillment then the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to recalculate for you and set you on the right path again. However, you may need to make a U-turn or go on a different route entirely that He will lead you on.
How does that relate to how you handle your in-laws? If the ways you have treated your in-laws have been not-good-enough, mean, lousy, disrespectful, condescending, and terrible or out-rightly unchristian or wicked, then you need to make a change.
Sometimes in a marriage it may be a kind of ‘Do me I Do you’ between a husband and wife, for instance the husband or wife may say ‘I will treat your relations just the way you treat mine’, then a change is necessary.
Handling Relationship with In-Laws
Anybody outside the couple constitutes a 3rd party. However some 3rd parties are more important than others, (like in the story of Animal Farm) and are very precious to our spouse. Our relationship with these special people, e.g. our parents and parents in law will make or mar our marriage and rock the boat of our entire life. Usually we don’t have issues with our own parents, brothers and sisters, but we may have to settle some issues with our parents in law, brothers and sisters in law.
While my message today will apply to both men and women and the way they manage relationships with their in laws, please permit me to specifically and especially address the women today.
While some of us may be having a wonderful time with our parents in law (especially the mothers) some of us may be struggling and believe me it does not have to be so.
Let’s get practical. Permit me to talk from my own experience:
I was apprehensive when mama (my husband’s mum) visited us for the first time. That was possibly in 1982.
(We had interacted some weeks before my husband and I got married because she came early for the wedding (May) and stayed with him for a few weeks before the wedding (in June).
So because I was apprehensive, I sought counsel from a godly and older Christian lady who said… ‘Yide, you’re a nice Christian lady. Just be yourself, don’t be anxious, things will work out well between the two of you’. I took the advice and things worked so well between mama and me to the extent that it would not have mattered if she wanted to extend her stay for a couple of years.
Our relationship was so good that we talked about anything under the sun including how intimate (sexual) relationship was between husbands and wives during their own time and we delved into other personal areas that I don’t need to put in print.
If you’re a child of God and you’re yourself like my friend asked me to be with my husband’s mum (better put my second mum), ‘yourself’ will be nice, wouldn’t it? Now consider the other side in which case ‘yourself’ may be nice, but the other person may not be nice. What are you, a child of God expected to do in such a circumstance? We shall get to that.
Sisters don’t listen to those evil talks of ungodly women. They call mothers in law terrible names and refer to them in bad unpalatable terms. The Nigerian society even calls a flower with long sharp fangs that looks like tongues ‘Mother-in-law’s Tongue’. What a terrible thing! They forget that one day they will become mothers in law too. What goes round comes round. Yorubas will say ‘Agba mbo wa kan e’ which means, one day it will be your turn to be old and dependent on the young. All living beings grow old.
Your mother in law is your second mother. She should be as valuable to you as your own mother. Why? She’s precious in the sight of her son who is your husband (or in the sight of her daughter who is your wife) so she should be precious to you too. It’s the side you show to her that she is likely to see and respond to. Show a bad side, she will see the bad and respond to the bad. Show a good side and she will see the good and respond to the good.
When I got married God told me to relate to my husband as I would want my brother’s wives to relate to my brothers, and relate to my mum in law as I would want my son’s wives to relate to me some day. That sounds reasonable and logical doesn’t it? That is to say i you will reap what you sow. Do to people as you will want people to do to you.
If God has blessed you and your husband (still talking to ladies now), bless your in-laws especially your spouse’s mum and dad. Depending on the financial resources of your family shower them with love and affection. This applies to the men too on how they relate to their in laws.
Long ago (early 80s), a friend complained to me that her mother in law always wanted everything she had as they were in competition, from big fridge to freezer to wrappers and gold to mention a few. That day I did not know what to say to my friend, but if asked today, I would have told my friend to just do whatever is in her power for her mother in law without labeling her greedy. God allows our excesses, so we must do the same for others. As we genuinely bless our parents in law, God will release such divine provision to us that we won’t even have room to contain it.
If mama needs a fridge be the first person to suggest a small freezer as well if you have the money to purchase. If mama needs a gas cooker, suggest that the purchase of a gas cylinder so she won’t need to fill it frequently. If she’s dreaming of going with you to London include a tour Europe and America if her health can carry the stress. Take her on holidays with you, pay for her to go to Jerusalem on pilgrimage etc. If she complains of little head ache suggest to your husband that you give her a full checkup, fly her to India or wherever if need be. Why will you not do all that?
Reasons to Love our Parents in Law:
- They are your husband’s sweet parents who looked after him from cradle till you married him. Your spouse loves his or her parents, so love your spouse enough to love their parents. They paid their dues; they went through thick and thin, it’s the turn of you, their children to repay them. Give them the best of love and care. Be the one they will miss.
A sister told me that her second mum complained that she was suffering pain caused by arthritis because the aleovera drink that her daughter (daughter in law) bought for her finished, and no one else bought it for her. Even though mama was in America at the time she asked her sweet daughter to send her those drinks. When mama received her drinks in America, she felt better and her soul blessed this precious daughter. No wonder God’s hands and favor are resting on this sister and her needs are met at every turn.
A son in law so blessed his parents in law that his father in law told all his relations that at his death, all of them should regard his son in law as his first son (even though he has a son of his own).
Another prominent son in law of an elderly man who at the time of writing will clock 90 in just a little over a year, decided to become confirmation in the Anglican Church so that he can always take Holly Communion in his father in law’s church, even though he was raised in a Catholic family. He does not even wait for his wife to see her dad. He is fond of visiting the elderly man any time he liked and he would get the family members living in his house to cook soup and stew among other delicacies that he would carry to the father in law’s house. This man does this frequently. One year we went to mark the birthday of his father in law and I passed by the old man’s room. The door was opened and I beheld a beautiful sight: I saw this elderly man in his late 80s with his first son and son in law chatting, laughing and discussing politics and stuff like that. They sat on the floor in Papa’s room (I was told that they do that often). When I saw that I pretended to be jealous and remarked to the elderly man that the men were enjoying themselves without the ladies and we all joked over it. I will never forget that sight. This man and his wife welcome their loved ones on both sides to their home. Whenever I visit the family I feel the love of Christ radiating from that home. The wife mentors, mothers and disciplines all the young people and their own biological children freely without the husband interfering or challenging her authority to do so. He knows his wife is a godly Christian woman whose greatest desire is to bring up these young people in the training of the Lord. When the wife expressed concern on the fact that they are close in their family and she would like to care for her family even though married he told her not to worry, that if she should marry him he would love her relations together. He has not failed in this regard.
In some families it is only one partner’s relatives that dominate the household, with the other spouse pained and unhappy. In some homes some relations living with a couple cannot be challenged, they must be treated like sacred cows and cannot be asked to lift a finger or corrected because they are the owners of the family. Some are even served food in their bedrooms and the household helpers will have to collect their plates and wash their beddings. Please permit me to say that this is more common among the husband’s relations in some homes or in our culture than the wife’s and the wives are unhappy. One Christian sister told me that her husband warned her not to send his young relations living with them on errands. Even though they did not have water running in their house the lady dared not send them to fetch water. I was amazed! Why would any man in his right senses allow young people living with them to be idle and irresponsible? Such relations go about causing unnecessary conflict between the couple and this will cause bad blood and may even degenerate to separation or divorce if care is not taken. Young people living with us whether they are young men or ladies should be helped and groomed to start preparing for family life, bear responsibilities and learn how to care and provide for the family.
2. When you show genuine love for your second mother, her soul will bless you, and any prayer she prays to God for you from the depth of her heart will be granted by God and very quickly too. My husband’s mum talked about me to everyone that cared to listen, not only in my husband’s village but in the neighboring village and amongst her friends. One day in the early eighties I met a Christian woman under quite unexpected circumstances. When I was introduced to her, she screamed and asked if I was Austen’s wife. I said yes, whereupon she told me of all the nice things my husband’s mum (my second mum) had said about me. I was quite surprised. When you hold your husband’s parents close in a precious manner, and you bless them from your heart, meeting their needs as much as you can, they will praise you (like Naomi praised Ruth). Not only people will hear it, heaven will hear it as well and release blessings to your life so much so that you won’t have room enough to receive.
3. If you honor your parents in law you will be honored. If you have honored them one day, your own children in law will honor you even more.
4. If you honor your parents’ in-law you, can be sure your spouse will be happy and the relationship in your family would be cordial. Also, your in laws will honor you too. My husband loved and cared for my mum just as if she was his own mum and he does the same for my brothers and sisters (my dad had passed even before we got married). In turn they love and honor him, always ready to attend any occasion he invites them to and mentioning his name as a wonderful in law. In the 5yrs I spent abroad, my husband did not just attend very important functions in my family (as much as he could), he also gave financial and moral support as appropriate. In reciprocation I do the same for his loved ones who are also my own loved ones. That is the way it should be in a loving Christian family. We should mutually love our loved ones on the two sides together.
5. If you honor your parents in law their parental blessings will rest on you. One day while in the village, we decided to replace mama’s old and ailing fridge. Her joy and prayers for us knew no bounds. She danced like little girl in her first Christmas dress. On another occasion mama came to Lagos and we took her for medical checkup and treatment. Shortly before she was to go back to the village I took her for shopping in Balogun market, not because we had much money. I just wanted to take her out and show my love to her. First, I wanted to take her on a sightseeing touur of Lagos. Second, I wanted to buy her a few things so off we went to Balogun market. We had a swell time and totally enjoyed hanging out together on that day. One of the things we bought was full underwear also called full slip which she loved and cherished so much.
Here are other vital points:
- Never pray for your parents in law to die if you want to live to enjoy your own children some day because what you sow is what you will reap.
- Never stand by and watch your spouse berate or disrespect his or her parents without correcting them and disassociating yourself from such disrespectful behavior so that one day your own son or daughter in law will not stand by and watch and listen to your child berate and disrespect you.
- If you sacrifice to provide for your own loved ones e.g. parents and brothers and sisters then sacrifice to do the same for your in laws, because both sides must be loved and cherished together. Your marriage is one, not two so the loved ones should be equally loved, accepted and helped as far as it convenient for the family.
- If we are not hospitable by nature that’s not a problem, as we have the Holy Spirit to help us. I ask for His help in all areas where I see myself falling short or areas where I’m not good enough.