In our own days, the few who have had to live together with their mothers-in-law are usually only able to do so together with their husbands who act as stabilisers between their wives and their mothers from time to time. The phenomenon of a wife wanting to continue to live with her mother-in-law even after her husband is dead and will no longer be around to defend her is quite strange. Means probably there was actually nothing to defend. Even while Mahlon And Chilion lived, they didn’t have much work to do in checking their mother in relation to their wives.
Naomi was never that accusatory, difficult-to-satisfy, “gbeborun” (a Yoruba slang for someone who is a gossip) mother-in-law. She didn’t unduly interfere in the internal affairs of her sons and their wives. She only contributed her elderly advice if it is deliberately sought by them. And upon giving the advice, she respects their right not to follow the advice still.
She wasn’t controlling – wanting to impose her own ideas on every aspect of their lives with insistence. They had that freedom to be themselves and to run their homes with the uniqueness that God endowed them to possess. That’s why her daughters-in-law didn’t find her environment toxic. They actually appeared to have enjoyed living with her.
She understood that the greatest need of a woman in marriage is to find rest. That inner peace and tranquility devoid of any internal or external agitation. In international law, we call this “territorial integrity”. A woman loves to enjoy territorial integrity. And so, Naomi’s prayer constantly for her daughters-in-law was that they would find rest in their husband’s house. Ruth 1:9. She was never going to be the one to interfere with that rest. She would rather seek to enhance its full enjoyment.
When Ruth was to challenge Boaz to rise up to his responsibility under the kinsman law of marital redemption of Israel at the time, it was Naomi that gave her the strategy which I believe she had prayerfully received and perfected. She had actually been driven to the place of prayer with a burden to find rest for Ruth. What a mother-in-law!
She said to Ruth in Verse 1 of Chapter 3 of the book of Ruth, “My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?” This sounds like someone who had taken responsibility for another person’s establishment. She left no stone unturned until Ruth found rest. And rest in no mere place but in the enviable lineage of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
When you will become a mother-in-law, may God raise you to have the heart of Naomi which seeks rest for her daughters-in-law and sons-in-law as the case may be.
In just four Chapters of the book of Ruth, Naomi called Ruth “my daughter” six times. I think this is the greatest underlying explanation of the very rare relationship they shared. She adopted Ruth as her daughter not just with the mouth but truly in her heart. She never had a biological daughter. Ruth was the daughter. She never saw her as a stranger but as someone who came out of her own very loins. Their relationship flowed from this basis. I had written some weeks back about the implication of such genuine adoption.
As it turned out, it was Ruth and not Mahlon or Chilion that preserved an inheritance for Naomi in the program of God. Such an eternal inheritance! Without Ruth and the fact she eventually turned out to become the grandmother of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, Naomi’s story would have been irrelevant for inclusion in the holy scriptures.
My counsel for everyone who is currently a mother-in-law or would be one in the future is to follow the example of Naomi. The daughter or son-in-law that you treat so badly may be the one that God has designed to preserve you a name and give your labour of several decades a memorial. Like Naomi, let your preoccupation be finding rest for them. By so doing. you will be preserving a glorious future for yourself.
May the Lord grant us understanding.
Next week, I’ll look at Ruth as a model of what a daughter-in-law should be. Don’t miss it.
Peniela Eniayo, Akintujoye.
©Peniela Eniayo, Akintujoye| firstname.lastname@example.org