By Kathleen Swartz McQuaig
You two are overboard on this religion stuff, my mother-in-law snapped,
glaring at us across the dining-room table. My husband and I shifted
uncomfortably in our seats. The rest of the family grew deathly quiet. What had
started as a lighthearted response to my brother-in-laws questionabout what wed
been up tohad turned into a topic of dissension. My mother-in-law, who had
grown bitter toward church, didnt want to hear about our faith or anyone
Her harshness gave painful definition to Jesus words about mother-in-law
against daughter-in-law. I hated the division that came as she shunned the most
integral part of me. At times I felt like I was dealing with Satan himself.
Still, I loved this woman with a deep unconditional love that defied
understandingeven my own.
If youve ever prayed for a loved one who has turned from Godif youve ever
experienced the burden to share while facing an insurmountable brick wallif
youve ever been verbally attacked for your own deep love of our Lord, then know
you are not alone. Our Lords timing is His own.
Mimmy mother-in-law, a fiery redhead, was a strong, take-charge person. She
embraced life with passion, filling it with beautiful people and exquisite
things. Mim entertained with a flair, generous and lavish. On the outside she
appeared to have more than anyone could want. But inside, Mim hungered for a
love that she kept at arms length.
Every holiday I struggled with the idea of adding to her earthly possessions
when, more than anything, I longed to wrap up the life-giving freedom that
comes from letting go and letting God. Unable to share Him with Mim, I prayed
for our Lord to send her others who could speak the truth.
Over the years, Mims countenance softened. We grew close in other ways,
learning to laugh at life together. I saw from her eyes as she shared memories
of trying to snuggle close to a mother who pulled away from her. It seemed that
Mim didnt know how to respond to unconditional love because shed not been
raised with it. I sensed that during those times when Mim still lashed out at
my faith, it was not what I was doing as much as the void she felt within.
Though I treaded gently, I never stopped praying or being who I was.
One afternoon I answered my phone to hear Mims voice. I have something to
share with you, she said. But I dont want you to get upset. The doctor suspects
ovarian cancer but doesnt yet know for sure.
Oh Mim, I said gently, None of us knows what tomorrow brings. Only God knows
for sure. Well take it one day at a time.
We talked a little longer, then Mim said something Ill remember forever.
When I asked the doctor what I could do in the meantime, he told me to pray. I
told him I knew just who to ask: my daughter-in-law. I was humbled at the
opportunity God had given me.
Can I pray with you now? I asked through the phone.
Please, she said. That would be nice.
That was the beginning of many gentle moments that God watered with grace
and tears. We visited often and even started praying with Mim. Each time I took
a risk and stepped out in faith. Little by little I was able to talk to her
about Gods love for us and His desire to have a relationship with us. We talked
about forgiveness and how our Lord would be waiting for her when her time came,
and then we prayed some more.
Mims journey to faith didnt come with lightning bolts and peals of thunder,
but with our Lords gentle rain quenching her spiritual thirst. In Gods time,
Mim learned to appreciate the greatest Gift of all.
When our Lord took Mim home, we celebrated her life with joy, knowing that
she had come full circle in His saving grace. We realized God had answered
prayer, amid the long but rewarding process of sharing Him with Mim.
Kathleen Swartz McQuaig is a writer, teacher, speaker, wife
and mother living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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