“It’s white,” she said, “but don’t worry! The dress has a really nice gold overlay that makes it look classy.”
Somehow, I managed to hold my tongue. That is if being blindsided and rendered speechless is considered holding one’s tongue? I mean, what mother of the groom wears white?
Yes, my future mother-in-law informed me during family dinner; she would be wearing a ‘classy’ white and gold dress for my wedding. It wouldn’t be too big of an issue if this happened to be an isolated incident, or perhaps a strange misunderstanding of wedding etiquette.
Several months earlier, I met my husband at church after a friend invited him to Sunday service. He gave his heart to the Lord nearly two years before, but never found a new church to call home. After attending and liking the service and people, he chose to become a member.
My mother-in-law never met the friend who invited my husband. I arrived only a few short weeks after he joined the church, and my mother-in-law held me responsible for her son leaving his Catholic faith. This church was nothing like the one she grew up in. Our church is large, plays contemporary worship music, and baptizes adults. When I came into the picture, her worry compounded. There were so many changes in her son’s life, and they all happened in a short amount of time.
I wish I could say I gave her no reason to dislike me, but rather than view her worry as a reaction to all the new and drastic changes in her son’s life, I chose to take it personally. I rarely spoke to her directly and often tried to ignore her attempts at conversation. In my naivety and anger, I reacted terribly. Only when a friend from church sat me down for a talk, did I understand the damage my attitude caused.
By innocence and purity, knowledge and spiritual insight, long-suffering and patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love; 2 Corinthians 6:6 AMPC
So sure of the ‘rightness’ of my actions and thoughts, I neglected to think about their impact on those around me. My husband held the title of referee, often feeling torn by a desire to calm his mother’s worries without seeming to take sides and offend me.
In my anger and hurt, I put us in a pickle. I needed the Lord’s help in dealing with my attitude and emotions. So I took time to pray and seek the Lord what I could do, and how could I change?
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop. Mark 11:25 AMPC
No matter what I did this verse kept staring me in the face. I heard it on the radio, during Bible study, devotion time, and from my pastor. What did this verse mean for me?
The Lord reminded me of the first time I prayed for my mother-in-law. I asked the Lord to please not let her be like my parents. My prayer held my answer. These feelings of unworthiness originated in childhood. I reacted to my mother-in-law’s worry by twisting it to mean she thought I was unworthy of her son.
Emotional hurts from childhood are easily carried into our adult years. While I had given my life to Christ, my heart still held on to feelings of unworthiness, loneliness, bitterness, and anger. Sure, everything seemed fine on the outside, but if I looked at my life and my relationships, I saw fruits of unforgiveness.
For healing to take place I needed to forgive, and while that sounds good, putting it into practice is another issue. Sure, saying ‘I forgive you’ is easy, but how do we forgive one another in a long-lasting, Godly way?
In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the forgiveness of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Ephesians 1:7 AMPC
In Christ, all who call upon Him are forgiven of offense, so I began to pray for my mom and everyone in my family to know the Lord. In faith, I began to pray for my future mother-in-law, and the Lord began working in my heart. Then the family dinner took place. White dresses were discussed, and my faith was put to the test.
This is the point in most stories when you silently cheer the wonderful breakthrough about to occur. This is not one of those stories. I lost it. Even after all the prayers and reading of the Word, I was not a spiritual superstar, but sometimes our failures point out our inability and bring us to a place of utter reliance on God.
After my ‘lost it’ moment, I spent a lot of time in prayer. I realized I need to approach my future mother-in-law and share some of my feelings about our relationship. Some of this would include why I felt hurt by her worry and asking for forgiveness. Being open and honest with someone is hard, but when we ask the Lord for wisdom and grace He is faithful.
This is spiritual growth, and it’s often taking a few steps forward, one step back, and praying in heartfelt repentance for missing the mark. Then we thank the Lord for His mercy and try again.
Our wedding day came, my mother-in-law wore navy blue, and we promised to would try again. The Lord restores and renews relationships when we choose to see His view. I eventually let go of my need for others to make me feel worthy, and I chose to view my mother-in-law the way the Lord views her.
While I would like to say things progressed smoothly from there, this still isn’t one of those stories. Our relationship had ups and downs that required forgiveness and repentance. The years passed, and now I’m close to my mother-in-law. Our relationship has grown and matured over the years to the point we ask each other for advice and talk just for fun, and God gets all the glory.
Bio: Sarah Neisen is a graduate of the New Day School of Ministry and Co-Founder of Discipleship Training Ministries, SSM. Along with her husband, Lee, they seek to teach and encourage believers in their identity in Christ so that the Good News may be preached throughout the world with signs, wonders, and miracles.