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Life is a Highway

December 9, 2008

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:8, The Message

My in-laws are driving me crazy. Seriously.

Here are the things you should know about my in-laws:

1. They live on a farm
2. They love their farm
3. Because they own a farm, they often go outside and look at their animals and their fields

Here is what you should know about me:

1. I hate going outside – and that includes going outside on their farm. This is because…
2. I detest bugs and dirty animals (both of which seem to always be around their farm)
3. I am the sole reason that after thirty years of living in their farm house, they installed air conditioning. (I refused to come visit in the summer, which became a problem once I had cute grandkids they wanted to be around)

We have made an uneasy alliance, though. I may be really loud, speak in tongues (at least, they think I do because I went to a Pentacostal church in college – which REALLY freaked them out), and I don’t understand much of their lifestyle. But I really love their son and I quickly gave them three adorable grandchildren to spoil and brag about to their friends during 4-H club meetings.

Our relationship has become strained recently with the news that a four-lane highway is being built through their county and will cut through one section of their farm. This has devastated my in-laws. They called Hugh immediately and spent hours on the phone discussing the highway and trying to figure out a way to stop it from going in.

My mother-in-law cried as they discussed the new road. Near the end of the conversation, my father-in-law told Hugh that they could not come from Thanksgiving.

“We just need to stay at the farm and try to stop this thing,” he said into the phone. “We can’t have it going in, Hugh.”

Hugh sat on the couch and told me about the highway. He looked upset as he told me about different land-use laws that could potentially help his parents stop the planned road from going through their property.

I had no compassion as he talked to me about it. I was angry. They weren’t coming to Thanksgiving because of some stupid road? They have never come for Thanksgiving – ever – and now they were backing out because of their lame, hot, bug-infested land.

Nice reaction, I know.

“This is actually a big deal, Jess.” said Hugh, searching for different land regulations on his laptop while we talked.

“I don’t care,” I shot back. “I can’t believe they won’t come.”

This conversation happened several weeks ago. Since then, I have become more and more irritated about the highway. I am resentful when my in-laws call to talk to Hugh about the situation and I have told Hugh that I am rethinking visiting Indiana for Christmas. “After all,” I pointed out, “they didn’t come here for Thanksgiving. Why should I go there?”

This situation has forced me to realize how very shallow I am with the people I love. Even though my in-laws have sacrificed so much for our family (driving down to take care of the children when I was in the hospital, buying us food and baby clothes when we were first married and had NO money, keeping our children on weekends so that Hugh and I can get much-needed time away, etc..), it only took one little offense for me to become angry and resentful. I suddenly started seeing our relationship as a rigid “give and take”. They momentarily stopped giving, so I wanted to stop giving, too.

I don’t want to be selfish with the people I love. I want to love my in-laws, my husband, my friends, and my children with the kind of love that Jesus lavishes on me every day.

His love is a love that cares about the things I care about. His love listens. His love takes time to cry with me when I am down, instead of judging the reasons I am down. His love always wants to be with me. His love thinks of me first.

I need Him to come and resurrect my dry and selfish bones. To breathe His holy life into my petty heart and give me compassion for the people around me. I want to learn to love people with the love that He pours on me every day.

I know it isn’t easy – it wasn’t meant to be, I think. But each time I pick up the phone and ask my mother-in-law to tell me the latest news on the highway, I have an opportunity to become more like Jesus. He is all around-me, in this moment, offering me opportunities to love His children.

I pray that I will begin to be found worthy.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Copenhaver permalink
    December 10, 2008 8:37 am

    Dear Jess, I can pray with empathy for you on this one. I have the same kind of thing going on with my niece right now and I love her with all of my heart. Every time I pray for us, I’m gonna lift you all up too. Be soft Sister! Laura

  2. December 10, 2008 3:31 pm

    I hear you, Jess. In-laws are such a mixed blessing! They love our kids, they must have SOME redeeming qualities to have raised the husbands we love, and they give and give and give (and thank us for the privilege of helping with our kids!)…and yet somehow, they’re SO difficult to love sometimes! Last fall, a dear and wise friend gave me some advice about people and loving them. She said, “When you find yourself looking at _____ (your husband, mom-in-law, son, sister, etc) and feeling disappointed. Shift your gaze to Jesus and let your love and passion for him be what you focus on and pour out on that person.”

  3. December 10, 2008 5:56 pm

    Perhaps if you think of the farm as their home… and not of land… then it’ll be easier to understand their perspective?

    Praying for you all…

  4. December 11, 2008 1:59 pm

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I can identify. One funny point though — I LIVE ON A FARM (it has been in my husband’s family for over 100 years and his great grandfather built our house). I LOVE air conditioning — we are modern folks. lol But I have resented in-laws and this land for years. So that part, I can identify with you. However, God has done a great bit of healing in my heart where my MIL is concerned and I pray He will help you as well. I can see where they feel devastated about their land. People work hard to accumulate land and the city can just step in, condemn it and take it. I’m sure it is hard for an older couple.

    On another note, my husband is a developer, so I see both sides.

    I do pray God will give you peace where your in-laws are concerned. Pray for them and it will help your heart towards them. Also, if any of your Pentecostal roots are there — pray in the Spirit!!!!

    (I hope you’ll visit my blog too.)

    Bless you!
    Beth

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