Have you ever come across those extended families where during Christmas everyone looks forward to going home with their spouses and children? I know one. It’s a ritual. The grandparents live here in the Southwest. At least one of the children live in as far as Abuja and every other person lives at least outside the state where the grandparents reside. Every Christmas and new year everyone comes home with their spouses and children to be together for close to ten days.
I have seen how none of these families ever want to miss the annual gathering. It’s because it is fun to have a mix of different people, vocations, life outlook and personalities dwell together in love and oneness under a sense of an inseparable bond called “blood” – throwing loving banters at each other; sitting together to crack jokes and laugh, cooking together, watching movies together and doing everything together for ten solid days. The children of each of these families who are cousins also do have an opportunity to bond together and to crowd around grandma for biscuits. It’s blissful.
Me I love the sweet experience of a strong and loving relationship between siblings; with their spouses and children incorporated. I love family. Family is everything. Relationship is everything. Love is everything!!!
I for instance do enjoy travelling with my younger sister and her husband or having them come around or being in their place too. It’s always fun. It’s fun because first of all myself and the husband love each other very passionately. We have adopted each other as one blood. We share our successes and struggles together. There is hardly anything we can’t talk about. And he can be a very jovial person. I am too.
Once, I remember hosting him in my house on one of his visits to my city. My sister wasn’t on that trip. We talked until late in the night, laughing hard until I was rolling on the ground out of uncontrollable laughter. What a bliss that is!!! Two people originally unknown to each other but who are now perfect friends on account of marriage. Me and him can even successfully keep a secret away from my sister for many years if we choose to.
The other day, I went to Lagos and updated my WhatsApp status to that effect. The moment my elder brother’s wife saw it, she told me she hoped I will branch to say hello. Meaning she was eager to have me come around. That’s the way a loving family works. There are some families where spouses don’t want to see their in-laws around the house. May not be their fault too. They may have been treated very badly previously.
Of course I visited and she ensured there was a sumptuous meal waiting for my enjoyment. My brother didn’t have to be around all through the visit. We were fine together. She’s my blood sister (elder – because she’s older than me). That’s the way I see her. I don’t see her as a wife of the family but as my elder sister. Start treating your brother’s wife as your sister and she will feel respected enough to love you unreservedly. She’s actually your sibling by virtue of the principle of adoption – “your people shall be my people.” Ruth 1:16.
Now don’t miss the next point I’m about to make. It is the crux of this article. There are mindsets that power this idea of a big loving family. The first is the principle of true adoption. This adoption is beyond lip service. It’s a matter that you must consciously stamp into your heart. Make your spouse’s siblings your siblings in your heart indeed.
I originally have four siblings. Iyebiye has three. Now I believe in my heart that I have seven siblings. I have arranged all seven in my mind and identified who is my elder brother or sister and who is my younger brother or sister. This will influence the approach of my relationship with everyone of them. But first of all, they are my siblings. By the grace of God, all seven have equal rights and privileges with me anytime they choose to use it.
If I have truly adopted them as my siblings, I should judge their actions and what my reaction should be at any given time using the standard of my own original siblings. “If it was my own blood sister that did this, will it pain me this much? If not, why then am I allowing myself to be this pained since my sister-in-law has been adopted as my sister?” That’s the kind of question to ask. If my blood sister can send me on an errand, why can’t my sister-in-law? Even if she’s older by just one day I see her equally as my elder sister. This is the way to approach it friends. If your spouse’s younger brother needs money, it shouldn’t be a big deal for him to request from you and not his sister. We should grow to that point of true adoption that is genuine.
There are many things that people complain about their mother-in-law that their own mother do worse things. They can take it with their mother but not their mother-in-law. This shows true heartfelt adoption has not taken place. The woman doesn’t yet truly see the mother-in-law as her own mother in every sense of the word.
Several Parents-in-law also do easily pay lip service to this idea of adoption but we find them extremely judgemental and intolerant with their sons and daughters-in-law on the same issues they would have shown understanding were it their biological children.
If there can be true adoptions by spouses of each other’s siblings and parents; and a correlative adoption by parents of their children’s spouses and their families, in-law related crisis will reduce by at least half.
The second principle that powers one big family is love. Most of the in-law relationship problems we have are love problems. Love automatically breeds tolerance. Tolerance is when you’re content to allow others be themselves and do things their own way without being sharply judgmental because they are not doing it your way. Tolerance requires a lot of humility which comes by telling yourself, “my way or thoughts on any issue isn’t always the only way it can be done. Others can be right also.”
Love makes you make excuses in your heart for people’s misbehaviors and so you hardly get angry with people. You tell yourself, “maybe he didn’t mean it that way,” “maybe this is what she is actually trying to say.” This is what I do call “large-heartedness”- ability to accommodate other people’s peculiarities and excesses and swallow it with love sometimes without ever mentioning it to them.
Finally, love breeds respect. When you truly love people, you don’t want their reputation and prestige to be reduced in any way whatsoever. Families where everyone respects everyone last longer together in an inseparable bond. Respect your siblings (elder or younger) and their spouses. Love births respect!
Will you please trust God to grow you in love? Christianity is actually summarised by love. Jesus said that’s the summary of the law and the prophets. Compare Galatians 5:22-23 and I Cor 13:1-4 and you’ll realise that virtually all the fruits of the Spirit are subsets of love. The fruits of the Spirit is actually love. Period!
Ask God today to increase your love walk and capacity to tolerate people in love because if you’re weak in loving and tolerating people, your Christianity is weak.
With true adoption and love, we can have a beautiful extended family relationship with our own siblings and in-laws. May this be your experience. Amen.
Peniela Eniayo, Akintujoye.
©Peniela Eniayo, Akintujoye| firstname.lastname@example.org