Dear Future Daughter-in-law,
It may seem strange to be writing a letter to you right now. After all, B is barely a year old, and I know I am not promised to see him live even another day. I know it’s possible that you don’t exist and that he will never marry. But I know it is very likely that he will one day become interested in a girl, pursue her, marry her and have children with her.
But honestly, I don’t really like thinking about you right now. It’s not in my nature to imagine my baby boy one day growing up and marrying you. Quite frankly, I enjoy the fact that I’m the only girl in his life right now. Daily, I grow in awe of other mothers of boys who watch their sons grow up and marry. The respect I have for my own mother-in-law increases as my love for my son grows and I simultaneously seem to be developing a stronger desire to hold on to him tighter and tighter. Why? Well, I’ll tell you.
For starters, no one knows B like I do. My job description entails studying him, learning him, caring for him and nurturing him. I know what his cries mean. I know when he’s hungry. I know when he’s tired. I know when he just wants attention or needs to be held. I am the one that knows those things. I am the one he looks to for comfort and provision and care. Me. Me. And honestly, I like that.
I fully believe God created me to be a wife and mother before all else, and that he gave me a desire to care for my son and to devote myself to this role. Titus 2:4 lists these priorities among what the older women should teach the younger women – “to love their husbands and children.”
But it can be so easy to read that verse and stop there, losing sight of the purpose behind why God commands me to do this. The end of Titus 2:5 says, “that the word of God may not be reviled.” And then verses 10-14 resume the reasoning behind the command:
“…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of our God and Savior. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
If my desire as a wife and mother is to adorn the gospel, I must constantly evaluate how my own marriage either contributes to that adornment or takes away from it (Ephesians 5:22-33). Do my words to my husband imitate the grace of God, or do I too quickly forget the grace that God extended to me through Christ? Are my actions and responses based in self-control or do I “plan” and “serve” in a way that best suits my own desires and needs? Am I waiting in a manner that stabilizes me on my future hope, the return of Christ, or is my demeanor and attitude constantly shifting with every emotion and circumstance that comes my way?
I know you may be wondering how all of this relates to B, or especially to you. As a frankly-spoken friend once put it, I’m not raising B to be a little boy. I’m raising him to one day become a man.
I’m not saying that I should desire him to be grown-up already. By no means! Other mothers incessantly remind me that my time with him will pass all too quickly. No, I pray that God would help me live in and enjoy each moment, despite the sleepless nights or fussy teethings or tired days. Each moment filled with crying, kissing, teething, bathing, changing, doctoring, nursing, spanking, giggling, wrestling, singing and playing is a gift from God, and the last thing I want is for it to end. No, I’m not saying that I should wish it away. My son is a good gift from the Lord.
But often the good gifts are the ones that quickly become idols, especially as we lose sight of the purpose behind those gifts – to adorn the gospel. As I enjoy each moment spent as B’s mother, I need to remember in the back of my mind that it’s possible that one day he will be a husband and a father. One day, Lord-willing, this boy I’m raising will no longer be a boy, but a man. Now, I know his father has the responsibility of modeling and shepherding him into manhood, so why does what I do matter? Why can’t I pretend you don’t exist? Why is it unhealthy for me to ignore the fact that one day my baby boy could possibly marry and have children? It seems harmless enough, right?
Wrong. Everything I do and say is modeling for B some type of woman. I must be mindful of that. What kind of character am I displaying? Do my words, actions and assertions reflect the Gospel, or my own self-fulfillment?
Too often, I fail in this, which is why I’m asking God to help me be mindful of you. You are a tangible reason why displaying the gospel is so important. Instead of gearing myself up to declare how I was here before you, asserting that I know my son best, I pray for the guidance to prepare both my own heart as well as my son’s heart for that exchange where you will become his first and main priority. Why? So that your marriage adorns the gospel well.
Instead of temporarily and pitifully satisfying my own self-image by finding my identity in my son, I seek scripture for reminders that my identity rests in Christ. I pray for the Holy Spirit to remind me of the gospel daily, forcing my dependence on it, rather than developing an unhealthy self-image that begins and ends with my children, and thus is damaging to my own marriage.
Instead of devoting every ounce of my time and energy and mind to my son and in turn neglecting my husband, I ask God to help me remember that I am a wife first, and a mother second. I pray for God’s grace to love my husband well, knowing that is one of the greatest gifts I could ever give B.
Instead of wanting to remind my son of all the ways I think I have loved him selfishly and sacrificially, I pray for God’s grace to model humbly, gently and patiently what a biblical wife and mother should look like so that he in turn grows up seeking a wife similar to the Proverbs 31 woman.
I’ve already confessed to you only a few of my imperfections and failures. I’m far from measuring up to that Proverbs 31 gal. But I want you to know, future daughter-in-law, that I’m asking God to help me be mindful of you. Even though I don’t really want to think about you yet, I pray that I would remember you and remember to pray for you. I know that the greatest gift I could give my son is to demonstrate the gospel to him through the way I love him and his father, which ultimately affects your family one day. Yes, I pray to remember you, so that I will in turn remember to raise my boy into a man while attempting, only through the grace of God, to demonstrate a godly woman’s character in the process.
One day, maybe God will bless you with a son, and then you’ll understand. When that day comes, perhaps we’ll discuss it over coffee and I’ll laugh with you, recalling my own failings and God’s faithfulness, and assuring you that God gives grace that sustains and enables us to be the godly women we could never be on our own.
Your Future Mother-in-law
- Proverbs 31 status? (handwritten92.wordpress.com)