Dear Alex and Susan,
When a bride is born, so is a mother-in-law. My daughter and I have been closely watching your transformations from boyfriend’s mother and girlfriend to mother-in-law and wife. It is because of this that I blame the two of you for the list of recordings on my TV. It is full of “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Four Weddings” episodes, in preparation for the big event that took place on Saturday. We have particularly enjoyed “Four Weddings,” a show in which four brides compete for a free honeymoon based on who had the best wedding, as judged by the other brides, because why not add more stress to your special day? Recently, we watched a young couple exchange vows during which the bride quoted a well-known passage from the Book of Ruth (1: 16-17):
Wherever you go I will go,
wherever you lodge I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people
and your God, my God.
Where you die I will die,
and there be buried.
May the LORD do thus to me, and more, if even death separates me from you!
Sounds like a lovely exchange between wife and husband, right? Hold on. Ruth did not make this speech to her husband. She made it to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Only four chapters long, the Book of Ruth tells the story of a widowed woman (Naomi) and her two daughters-in-law (Ruth and Orpah), who are also widowed. Naomi decides to return to her home in Bethlehem and tells the DILs to back to their homes as well. Orpah obeys and goes home, but Ruth stays with Naomi and eventually continues the hereditary line that will lead to Jesus’ birth. You can watch a short video of the story here. All DILs are either Orpahs or Ruths. You, Alex, are a Ruth.
I would be more like the other DIL, Orpah, who opted not to go into a new land but instead returned to her people. Orpah gets a bad rap for leaving Naomi, going back home, and starting a new family and life. However, Orpah was doing exactly what Naomi asked. Some commentators have wisely said that “Love looks different with different women “ and that “Orpah’s choice to leave – with Naomi’s blessing – was no less loving than Ruth’s continuing the journey.” However, Ruth gets the book named after her, so clearly, she sets an example to be admired.
It has been a joy to see my friend so happy with a daughter in her life. I love seeing the way you two relate to each other and how Alex has seamlessly blended into Susan’s family. Ruth is usually praised for her loyalty to Naomi, but more than that, they were a good team. So are the two of you. How you two act sets the tone for how other marriages can be received into your family. While you two of you have a special bond, you will remember that “Love looks different with different women.” Your roles are unique to you; each woman entering the family will have to work out her place in it. They will have their own unique gifts to bring into the family and their own God-given relationship with their in-laws. Alex, as a Ruth, will be in a special position to guide and support them. You will know that we Orpahs have no less love for our families, it just shows in different ways. Susan, as a Naomi, you will have the wisdom to encourage your daughters-in-law in their unique struggles.
Not that you need them, Alex, but here are some tips on How to be a Better Daughter–in-Law gleaned (see what I did there?) from Ruth on the Woman of Noble Character website (it is actually good advice for all of us):
Speak only in kindness. Don’t engage in arguments with your mother in law or complain about your husband to your mother in law.
Listen to her advice – even if you don’t take it.
Don’t compare your in-laws to your parents.
Go out of your way to help her.
Cultivate a relationship with her.
Thank your in-laws for the way they raised your son. (Thanks, Trudy!)
I am not one to give advice to Susan, but the Naomi-Ruth Road IS a two-way street. Some of the advice for MILs from the Book of Ruth includes: coming together in times of trauma and loss – “pulling in and not pushing away,” expressing your position in disagreement through filtered words of thanks, and recognition for what the DILs have done for the family rather than telling them what they have done wrong.
The relationship you two have modeled makes a big difference with your extended families as well. Some wedding receptions can look like the dance at the gym in West Side Story, with Sharks on one side and the Jets on the other, neither one intermingling. At your wedding, it was hard to tell who was in Alex’s family and who was in Jack’s because everyone blended so seamlessly. Joy shared is joy multiplied. You two have created a foundation from which your families can continue to grow in your lifetime to come. And Alex, you and Jack work pretty well together, too.
With love and best wishes on your big day,