What’s a girl to do when her future mother-in-law hates her?
“I’m sorry,” I said as I broke eye contact. “I can’t marry you tomorrow. The wedding is off!” Sobbing, I ran up the stairs and headed for my bedroom. Brad, my fiancé, stood frozen at the foot of the stairs.
“We’ll try to talk to her,” my parents assured him. “Come back early in the morning, and we’ll see if she’s changed her mind. Brad, you know she loves you; she adores you.”
Looking down and his voiced cracking in despair, Brad responded, “I know she loves me. And I love her. I just wish my mother understood and accepted this fact.”
My parents came to my bedroom as I lay prostrate on the floor.
“Daddy, I can’t marry Brad. His mother . . .”
“I know, Jana, but you must remember that you’re marrying him, not his mother.”
“She’s done everything she could to end our engagement. In her book, I do everything wrong! I even read the wrong translation of the Bible!”
My dad placed his finger across my lips. “Jana, your engagement survived until this evening. And look, you and Brad have identical Bibles. Honey, you know that you two plan to live here, and his mother lives thousands of miles away.”
“But I want to marry into a family that loves and adores me. I want my children to have two sets of loving grandparents.”
“Jana,” my mother interrupted, “maybe this is our chance to give Brad a family that loves and adores him.”
My mother’s words pierced my heart. Yes, I did want to spend the rest of my life with Brad. And my family? They would be my gift to Brad!
The next morning I woke up to see Brad sitting beside my bed. “Will you marry me?” he asked with a sheepish grin.
“You’re not supposed to see your bride on the day of the wedding until she walks down the aisle!” I retorted.
Friends came from far and near to share our day. The wedding was beautiful. Our reception was truly a celebration of the commitment we had made to each other. But as we prepared to leave on our honeymoon, Brad’s mother made her way to our car. Grasping my arm, she glared into my eyes. “I’ll never understand why God was so cruel as to take Brad away from me—and give him to you!” she blurted.
Brad flinched, and I saw great restraint. He stepped over to my parents and hugged them goodbye, and I joined him. “Thanks for giving us such a wonderful day!” Brad said more than once. Then he opened the car door and I got inside. Brad got in on the driver’s side without saying a word to his mother, and we drove away.
Earlier that morning I had determined that nothing was going to ruin our wedding day. I’d just ignore any unkind words Brad’s mother might say. But now my eyes stung, and I fought back tears.
“Sweetie, my mother doesn’t understand how lucky I am,” Brad assured me. “I married the most wonderful girl in the world!”
Our honeymoon was wonderful, and we soon settled into the routine of married life.
“Honey,” I said one evening, “I think we should begin to pray about the situation with your mother. We can’t underestimate what God can do in her heart. I know He can do the impossible!”
“I agree,” Brad said. “Yet truthfully, sometimes I think it would be easier just not to deal with my mother.”
Praying about the situation was a challenge. Often we’d begin to pray and then we’d feel waves of anger, but this only showed us that forgiving Brad’s mom was necessary. Yet we wondered how we could forgive someone who wasn’t sorry. In time, we learned that forgiveness is an act of obedience to God. It doesn’t depend on the other person’s repentance. Forgiveness can take place despite our emotions.
Our next step was to find the good in Brad’s mother. Instead of talking about the outrageous things she’d done, we would concentrate on the good. “She was created in God’s image,” I reminded Brad.
We also tried showing Brad’s mother that she hadn’t lost a son; she had gained a daughter. Each Sunday afternoon we placed a call across the country. Often I found myself biting my lip to avoid reacting to a critical comment or a harsh remark. We always ended each phone call with, “We love you!” We also sent her frequent “thinking of you” cards.
Slowly we began to see Brad’s mom soften. The once-a-week phone call became twice a week, one from us and the other from her. In her own way, she let us know that she appreciated our mail. It took months, but I could tell that she was beginning to respect me as Brad’s wife. She even discovered some of the reasons her son loved me so.
“It’s time,” I said one evening while drying the dishes.
“Time for what?” Brad asked.
“Time for us to send your mom a plane ticket and invite her to come and stay for a week.”
“Do what!” Brad exclaimed.
Repeating myself, I set the dishtowel on the counter and walked over to Brad. “I want to show your mom unconditional love.”
“But, Jana, what happens if she gets out here and hasn’t truly changed? What if she spouts another wedding-day comment?”
“And what if she doesn’t? What if we find ourselves actually having a wonderful time together?”
A month later we met Brad’s mom at the airport. I could tell that Brad was apprehensive about what might occur during her stay. “So are you going to tell me why you sent me a plane ticket?” she asked once we arrived back at our home.
With a smile Brad answered, “Just to tell you that we love you, Mom.”
Brad and I have now been married for 22 years. The time, money, and emotions we’ve invested in our relationship with his mother have been repaid many times over. Today, our three children do have two sets of grandparents who love and adore them. Brad is one happy man.
And me? I now have a friend who calls me almost every morning, just to say hi!
Janet Lynn Mitchell writes from Orange, California.