A very good thing about marriage is in-laws. You choose your spouse. And with your spouse comes a whole bunch of people who you don’t choose, nor did they choose you.
When I was in college we could choose our room-mates. But our dormitories were four rooms to a living room. In the room next to ours was this huge and really happy kid named Terry. He was happy about everything, especially when he came back from a band trip, which usually seemed to be at two in the morning. He would come in to our room and since I was the smallest person in the room, he would pick me up out of bed, carry me outside and hang me up-side down over the dormitory railings three stories above the ground. This infuriated my room-mate. He found it dangerous, unnecessary, and an unfortunate interruption of everyone’s sleep. I think I might have been angry too, if my room-mate had not been so angry for me.
But we also had a basketball player in one of the other rooms. He was a quiet guy until some of his friends from the basketball team came over. Then he was loud, and so were his friends, till late at night, until I came out in my whitey-tighties (that had turned pink because I had accidently washed them with my maroon sweatshirt). “Everyone leave,” I would say. And they would leave.
My room-mate would say to me, “Larry, you can’t just tell people to leave. You need to be tactful. This is their living space too.”
He was right. I did need to be more tactful.
My wife’s family are better than good people. Without exception, they would give the shirt off their back to anyone in need. They also have a huge heart for the gospel and a passion for the Scriptures.
When my future wife first brought me home to meet her family, they were surprised. My wife was the youngest of six children, and her siblings all loved their little sister. She was a typical youngest, full of pranks, always interested in getting a laugh. But none of them laughed when they first saw me. They did wonder if, perhaps, there was a mistake.
This morning, thirty five years later, my brother-in-law and I had another of our discussions. After it had gone on for about two hours, my wife texted to me, “please.” She had heard the same discussion before. She said she had heard it hundreds of times before, which I think is an exaggeration.
I told my brother-in-law I really thought when we came right down to it, we were on the same page.
My wife told me later we were not on the same page, in fact we weren’t even in the same book.
I respect my brother-in-law. As I mentioned earlier, my wife comes from an exceptional family. But we do approach certain things from a different perspective. Which is a good thing. If we only associated with those who were just like ourselves, that would be unfortunate. We all know of insular groups, like the Amish, pre WWII Japan, tribal groups that live in the jungle or on the tundra. I don’t perceive these groups as vibrant, and growing, or joyful.
As Believers we have a common bond in the Lord Jesus. We are even called a family. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “But you who were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.”
Since I turned 60 I’ve been thinking a lot about my past. Just last week I reconnected with several college friends through facebook. It gave me a great deal of joy to again reestablish a relationship with friends whom I had not heard from in almost 40 years. My old college friends were friends that I do not presently have as part of my long established social/spiritual circle. In college I had a diverse group of friends, who, I’ve learned, have become even more diverse.
Clearly our Lord loves variety. Look at His creation. During His earthly ministry, His delight was in all those who others thought He had best not associate.
I am so very thankful my in-laws actually do like having me around. They didn’t choose me. They never would have chosen me. But for some odd reason, their sister chose me, and the Lord chose me. And that means we’re part of the same family, odd as I might still be to them.
Which is a good thing.
For all of us.