All I ever heard about mothers-in-law was negative. Even saying the title MIL makes eyes roll and annoying stories flow. Newly married, I braced myself. I imagined at some point there’d be a line of me versus her like the movies portray. But instead of proving movies right, she proved Scripture right. My MIL is my Naomi. And I would follow her wherever she goes. So this is my ode to good MILs who’ve adopted their daughters-in-law as their own. Thank you for loving us well.
Meet the characters…
Naomi: A faithful woman of God who lost both sons and husband to a famine in ancient times. A good mother-in-law.
Ruth: Naomi’s daughter-in-law who came from a different people group yet followed her MIL and wanted to fully belong with Naomi. A good daughter-in-law.
If you read the book of Ruth through the lens of a MIL/DIL relationship, there’s so much to learn. It dashes the worldly view of this relationship and honors it with what the Lord meant it to be.
Here’s some lessons I’m storing up for when I’m a MIL someday…
Lesson #1 Good MILs are humble
I notice parallels from Ruth and Naomi’s relationship and mine with my MIL. Naomi was made humble out of her circumstances. I imagine she faced relational loneliness as her two sons married women of a foreign land. I wonder what it was like for her to humbly accept her sons choices and let those women become important to her sons while she faded a bit. And then as things didn’t work out, her sons and husband died and she was left alone. (Ruth 1)
My MIL may not have LOST her two sons like Naomi did to famine (Ruth 1:4-5), but she definitely lost her title as “Most important woman” in their lives when her two sons married. She moved aside so their wives could be their #1 and naturally lost some relationship with her children because of it. I think it’s important for us to empathize with our MILs and how humbling that would be. I wonder now how that must’ve felt for her after dedicating her life to her children. Lonely? Hard? Confusing? And yet she became smaller so I could become more. She befriended me and accepted change gracefully.
I want to be a MIL who’s humble when it’s hard like that someday.
#2 Good MILs seek the BEST for their DILs
As we read on in Ruth’s story we find Naomi ready to leave Moab and journey back to Bethlehem to find food (Ruth 1:6-14). Without a man in her life she had nothing to offer her DILs. So as the DILs start following their MIL to her homeland, “Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?”” (Ruth 1:11).
What does this mean? It means Naomi wanted the BEST for her DILs even if it meant the worst for herself (being completely alone). She championed her DILs.
My MIL has championed me in too many ways to count. She gets excited for what I’m excited for. She reads all my writing and tells me I’m awesome. She watches my kids. She listens when I have a hard day. She seeks my best in small and big ways because she loves me.
I want to be a MIL who encourages like that someday.
#3 Good MILs ADOPT their DILs
As Naomi leaves, Ruth begs to stay with her and Naomi accepts her even though they’re no longer tied relationally by marriage. “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God “”(Ruth 1:16).
Naomi didn’t have to say yes. BUT she CHOSE to enter deep family relationship with her DIL even when the relationship was technically done after her son died. This is a picture of the kind of love God intended for MIL and DIL. Not one of duty but of adoption.
This has taught me so much. The relationship takes two. It takes a DIL who WANTS to have a good relationship with her MIL. And it takes a MIL who accepts and adopts her DIL as her own not because she’s her son’s wife, but because she loves her as a daughter.
I’m so thankful my MIL has ACCEPTED, LOVED and CHAMPIONED her daughters-in-law. I’ve become her daughter. Not because I needed another mom, but because God gave me another person to love me on this earth. I’m so thankful He did. Like any relationship, it’s work to grow together, but I know she has adopted me as her own.
I want to be a mother-in-law who loves her daughter-in-law like that someday.
I know not everyone has an amazing relationship with their MIL. If you don’t, I’m praying for you today for healing and peace because our God is a god of peace. And if you do, tell her you cherish her today!
Lord I pray for all the Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law who are embarking on a journey together. Protect their relationship. Grow them in unity. Teach them how to celebrate one another. We thank you Father for giving us another person to love. In Jesus Name. Amen.
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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.