The Mother-in-Law Chronicles: Under the Canopy and into the Community

By on August 14, 2012
mother-in-law chronicles wedding canopy

This is the first post in a series on the relationship between mother-in-laws and their daughter-in-laws as shown through the bible. While some stopping by might not have the MIL/DIL relationship  as described biblically, I encourage you in faith to claim these relationships as God describes and one reach at a time, find fulfillment and blessing in those relationships.

At exercise, one mom of sons said, “UUuugghhh! My MIL is coming.”
“Do you have sons,” I asked?
“Yes – 2” she answered. They were still little guys.
“Do you want your future DILs to talk like that about you?” I countered.
You could see her processing this – that shoe on the other foot.

I’ve also had the following phrase bandied about in family circles all my life, “A son’s a son Till he takes a wife. A daughter is a daughter All her life.” Every time we had a son, someone would pop that phrase out – and, well, it’s not only a curse; it’s not biblical.

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Please journey with me through the scripture to see exactly what the scripture has to say about a mother and her sons, about a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. Hopefully, you will find it a beautiful, hopeful journey, stepping stones to blessing.

Before the bride ever stepped beneath the canopy of the marriage ceremony, she had already legally left the community of her mother and father.

and the bride Sarah stepped under the canopy
into her husband’s community
to live a life rife with dysfunction
and the amazing blessing of God
who would send angels to sit at their table
in the midst of their dysfunction
where sometimes, Abraham would cook
for God and where Sarah learned God loved her,
was faithful to His promises even
though she laughed at the impossibility of God’s plans
plans that gave her a son to love, to raise
to find fulfillment

and the bride Rebekah stepped first
into the tent of her mother-in-law, Sarah
before she ever first stepped under the canopy
of her husband because that is the first place
he took the woman who had already legally left her family
to join his, to meet his mother, that he loved
before he met his wife under his canopy
to live a life rife with parenting dysfunction and faith
faith enough for him to pray for his wife
to conceive in her barrenness
because He knew God had sat at the table with his Father
and because of her husband’s faithfulness and belief
she was doubly blessed with twin sons

Twenty-Nine years ago Monday, I stepped under that figurative canopy, married my husband, left my community and moved into my husband’s community over an hour away. Three things happened. First, because his family was closer, by default we spent more time – and by spending more time, reaching out to embrace, to learn his family who had different traditions, different ways of doing things, because I reached, I learned about unconditional love. I learned my heart is big enough to love as many people as I choose to love. Second, I learned that I honored my husband by choosing to build that relationship with his family. Because he loved them, I needed to love them, too. Lastly, honoring your father and mother means honoring his mother and father as you would yours.

My grandmother gave me her copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Book of Etiquette when I married – while good manners can help people feel welcome (which is a good thing), I have learned more from the bible about how to love those God gave me to love – like my husband, my children, my family and my husband’s family.

Abraham’s servant told Rebekah’s family leadership what he needed in the daughter-in-law to Abraham, “Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left”(Genesis 24:49)

Would she embrace her husband’s family? Embrace with steadfast love and faithfulness?

“Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken” (Genesis: 24:51)

Before she stood under the marriage canopy, the legal contract was already sealed, her allegiance belonging to another community.

“I will go,” (Genesis 24:58) – Rebekah said. I think it meant more than just the action of leaving. It meant that she in the going, in the accepting of the contract, she would show steadfast love and faithfulness to her husband’s parents, to his community – if she couldn’t do that – the servant would have left without her. This was the culture, not something unusual, not an act of long-suffering self-less-ness. This was as much a part of her role as a wife as being a Proverbs 31 woman.

“So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you become
thousands of ten thousands,
and may your offspring possess
the gate of those who hate him!”(Genesis 24:58-60)

Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way”(Genesis 24:67).

Leaving her community to support her husband’s community did not diminish who Rebekah was – it enabled her to become more than she ever imagined – her family supported this, blessed her, did not hoard her to themselves.

“Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death”(Genesis 24:67)

A heart is big enough to love as many people as you choose to – Isaac loved Rebekah, loved his mother – there wasn’t a conflict there. What kind of relationship Rebekah must have had with Her mother-in-law that she could comfort her husband when his mother died? Comfort means sharing good stories, good traits, recognizing what each other saw in the life of person . I rather think she must not have been jealous of his son-love for his mother. I imagine they both grieved someone they loved – that is the only good way to comfort.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’”(Genesis 2:23-24)

It is a beautiful thing, a holy celebration when a son finds a wife to complete him, to make him whole. God designed us that way, incomplete alone, made whole together – I rejoice at the thought of each of my sons finding that relationship.

Scripture admonishes the husband to take good care of his wife, to develop a close relationship, to become one – I assume that means best friends, too. Legally, he didn’t have to – but this scripture inserts the importance of heart in legal things.

The definition of the husband leaving his father and mother and holding fast to his wife is not walking away from his community, though.

Biblicly, the first-born to inherit his father’s business and wealth, he works alongside his father within that community – and if the father has enough wealth stored, he provides portions to his sons. A blacksmith teaches his son the trade. A king teaches his son to rule. A carpenter’s son is trained to take over the business.

The husband sets up his own tent with his wife (really, sometimes there were multiple tents for a couple) – that is what the canopy is all about. The new couple setting up their own home, giving her gifts and traditions she brings with her a place to grow freely. Each generation of wives bringing a new thread into the tapestry of the family history – a thread by itself is beautiful but does not add dimension to a story. A thread included in a tapestry story can create a striking effect.

I imagine settling into a new community is uncomfortable – because new things are. New traditions growing with older traditions – it takes grace, reaching, making room – but I think the culture then trained women to handle that transition.

There is much talk in today’s culture about the effects of an absent father on a family. It is more than an absent father, an absent husband – it is an entire community, a heritage of provision.

A son does not grow up to become fatherless. He grows to fill his father’s shoes in the community – shoes that walk the path of leadership for the following generations.

A groom leaving his father and mother is not a “Bye – it’s been great knowing you – but I’m outta here” kind of leaving.

It is a setting up a tent, setting up individuality yet growing into leadership within the community that grew you.

What kind of leaving have you and your husband done since your marriage – a leaving that left empty gapes within the family community – or a leaving that has grown the community?


Originally posted on Blue Cotton Memory.

About Maryleigh

Maryleigh is a child of divorce become whole as daughter of The King. Married for 27 years, mother of 5 boys to men, she has been a college composition instructor, teaching college-bound composition to homeschool students, journalist and freelance writer/editor. Maryleigh is the author of Blue Cotton Memory, a blog about the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men and creator of Standing at the Cross Roads, a program designed for teens and college students to break/prevent cycles of dysfunction by understanding the gifts and plans God has each of us. Her website: http://bluecottonmemory.wordpress.com.

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The Mother-in-Law Chronicles: Under the Canopy and into the Community