Friday, May 21, 2010
The card my mother-in-law sent me for Mother’s Day was a Hallmark slam-dunk. And she added some generous words of her own. The whole thing reminded me of a favorable story that was published about my family when I was a kid. My mom would often read paragraphs from the glowing portrait, close the magazine and sigh, “Someday I want to meet these people.”
My mother-in-law is gracious in nature, but it also helps that she lives two states away. We always have fifteen hours notice when grandpa and grandma are coming, which is enough time, for even the lowliest among us, to wash the kitchen floor and the children. I kept the card and put it on the mantle, hoping to grow into it someday. And I thanked her the next time we talked.
“That was a really nice card you sent me. I don’t think many daughter-in-laws get treated that well.”
“I don’t really think of you as a daughter-in-law,” she answered.
I have played that part of the conversation over in my mind, embarrassed every time that I pitched my gratitude low and away. But embarrassed or not, her response was beautiful. And it makes me want to do right by the clan into which I have been bound by holy matrimony.
In the book of Ruth, much deserved credit goes to Ruth and her stunning, famous speech: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Naomi, the mother-in-law, who changes her name to reflect her loss and deep sadness usually gets chastised for sulking. She may have changed her own name, but what she calls Ruth is consistent throughout: daughter. Powerful words. Words that inspire.
This evening as I was riding the bike, full of eagerness to grow into a better version of myself, I prayed in earnest about our upcoming family vacation. I literally prayed that God would give my mouth two weeks off; that I would be just hands and feet for fourteen days, mutely and selflessly looking out for the needs of others. I prayed and prayed. And pedaled and pedaled. Literally pictured myself peeling potatoes in sackcloth with a placid grin. With four minutes to go, I shifted into a harder gear for the yellow jersey finish, demonstrating a final burst of sweaty faith. The chain jumped right over the largest ring and tangled itself with purpose, sucking up underneath the crank arm. A short but potent bad word slipped from my lips. Twice. Nobody heard me, but as I wiped my grimy, greasy fingers on my shorts, my shoulders slumped. “I give up,” I said. And unofficially began the trip, humbled, if not without words.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . .” James 1:19