Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)
- TITLE: No Naomi
By Donna Powers
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She’s no Naomi.
My mother-in-law has never been someone I would voluntarily spend time with. Since Joe and I first married, her visits have filled me with anxiety and frustration as I tried to impress her with my cooking and housekeeping skills. She made disparaging comments during every visit, and Joe’s attempts to defend me sounded hollow to my ears.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve tried hard to get along with her for Joe’s sake. Harmony in the family is very important to us and Joe was close to his parents. When Janey and Jeremy came along, I tried even harder, since his mom is a wonderful grandmother. But the smiles and indulgences she rains on them turn to clouds when she talks to me. In her eyes, I am a terrible wife to her son and a poor mother to her grandchildren.
Six weeks ago, an ordinary September 11 became the worst day of both our lives. When we found out that Joe had been one of those killed, we had a brief moment of harmony when we cried together in our grief. But that moment was all we shared; she pulled into herself and has become even more distant and critical as the weeks went by.
And now, she’s asked if we want to move in with her. I was floored by her request; why would she offer – and why would I do that to myself? I know I need financial help and help to watch the children while I’m at work. I’m too far away from my own family to make going there an option right now. Lord knows, I hoped I could do it on my own, but I just can’t.
But, how can I live with Joe’s mother? Why would I purposely choose to live with my worst critic?
What was it about the Biblical Naomi that made Ruth want to stay with her? I admit that my knowledge of that Bible story was basic, and that all I remembered was Ruth’s famous speech to Naomi and sketchy details of her love story with Boaz. The parallels of that story to my own have been going through my mind since Joe’s mom offered her home to us. When I read the story again I was still clueless. Naomi made it clear that Ruth’s prospects were dim if she stayed with her; she encouraged Ruth twice to go back to her home and her people. Ruth wasn’t some little mouse who clung to Naomi in desperation; she was strong and resourceful – as her later dealings with Boaz demonstrate.
When I read this story again, I was even more impressed with Ruth. She had much better options for her life if she went home; Naomi turned bitter after the death of her husband and sons. Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah took off for the hills after Naomi encouraged her. Ruth had yet to catch a glimpse of Boaz, so it wasn’t that. The one constant in this story is Ruth’s faith in God.
And that’s where the story became a lesson for me. I considered my faith to be an important part of my life. Joe and I got married in a church and we talked about God from time to time, but I’ve never really made God an important part of my life. I don’t really know what it means to trust God. After “911”, I questioned God’s existence, and didn’t understand how God could have taken so many innocent lives. But Joe’s mom didn’t wonder. I’ve heard her speak many times of her unwavering faith and trust in God. I’ve always admired that. Maybe she has something to teach me, in that regard.
She’s still no Naomi. But maybe it’s time for me to become more like Ruth.
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