I wonder how many homes have the scripture “where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay” in some wooden frame hanging on the wall. I wonder how many marriage ceremonies have used Ruth 1:16 in reference to a husband and wife’s commitment to one another. A quick Google search of marriage quotes will often lead to this beautiful piece of God’s Word.
“Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay.” Ruth 1:16.
That’s the tricky thing about googled scripture verses, the context often gets lost and we are left to interpret the meaning however it fits our need. We are easily led astray when we don’t take the time to fully understand where a single verse in scripture comes from. That is why I want to take the time to explore Ruth and what she meant when she said those famous words. Where you go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay. Ruth was not talking to her husband, but she was talking to her mother-in-law. In my time studying what the Word says about marriage, I have come across far more lessons in boundaries than I have in how to love our in-laws. And while I agree that things change for a couple and their relationship with their parents when they are married, I think we must be careful with our intentions behind the boundaries we set for our in-laws.
“And Jesus answered them, ‘see that no one leads you astray’”.
I know, I know. Scripture tells us about boundaries for our in-laws. Wives everywhere are very quick to recite Genesis 2:24, or Matthew 19:5, or Ephesians 5:31 whenever we feel a line has been crossed. God’s Word says a man leaves his mother and father to become one with his wife. “The two shall become one flesh”. (Mark 10:8-10). Yes, this is all truth straight from many verses in the Bible. All too often though we tend to focus on only one piece of the truth, leaving out some particularly important other pieces. What does God mean by calling for a man to leave his mother and father? What are the boundaries that are healthy to set for our relationship with our in-laws? And how to do we set boundaries without drawing lines to keep them out. After all, as one flesh we should love who our husbands love, their family first and foremost
This doesn’t mean there is a one size fits all for how to love your in-laws. I personally have had to adjust how I love my in-laws and learn how to best embrace them as my own. I am blessed with a good relationship with my in-laws, although not always an easy one. I wasn’t raised by them, so learning to understand them took time. I was stuck in “my family does it this way” for quite some time before recognizing that my husband also felt that way. His family did it that way. It was learning to integrate the parts of our families we admired into our own marriage and leave behind the parts we wanted to change that has taken the most time in our relationship to build on.
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24.
I think we can agree that most wives are secure in the boundaries we want to set in our marriages when in comes to our in-laws. So, this isn’t about that. This is about how we choose to embrace our husband’s family as our own and choose to love our in-laws the way God calls us to.
“But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi.” Ruth 1:14.
As I read how Ruth chose to treat her mother-in-law, even though she wasn’t asked to, I realized this is the relationship I want. I want my husband to be confident that I will love his family as much as he loves them. I want my husband to know that I will choose his family, even when I don’t have to. I have gained family members through my marriage. I have gained people who love me and who I love. I have gained so much through my in-laws and it would be such a shame to push them aside because I manipulate a few Bible verses that I claim, “tell me to”. My husband has left his mother and father. He left the nest and has built his own with me. He is no longer under their roof or their rules. But does he still love them, care for them, and want to honor them? Yes. And as his wife, I need to be a part of that.
Ruth told Naomi she wasn’t going anywhere. She was going to stay by her side through the hardships she was facing. She could have gone home, but at the time she recognized that Naomi needed her. She made the choice to stay. I hope my in-laws know that they may not have raised me, we may have different opinions at times, but because I am married to their son, I will always choose to stay by their side. They will always be my family, too.
“Look, Naomi said to her, ‘your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.’.” Ruth 1:15.
Yes, Ruth had her own family. Naomi even encouraged her to leave and go back to them. Ruth left her own mother and father to be there for her mother-in-law. To do something for her husband’s family that required selfless love. Yes, scripture tells us that a man leaves his mother and father to become one with his wife. But if you kept reading, if you made it to the book of Ruth, you’d learn that a woman does the same. We aren’t called to leave behind our families for each other, yet to embrace each other’s families as one.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34.
So, how do we do this? How do we make a conscious effort to be inclusive and welcoming toward our husband’s family in our lives, rather than focus on any boundaries we must set? The simple act of embracing them as your own is an act of great love. A love that scripture commands of us. “Love one another, as I have loved you”. This isn’t just for our husband. This is for everyone, including our in-laws. Love them with grace and without conditions. Love them for who God has created them to be, and despite any flaws they may have. Love them fully and deeply, without expectation of anything in return. Your love does not get earned, but is freely given, so long as you are choosing to love in the same was God does.
“Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8.
Freely give. Maybe your in-laws drive you crazy, overstep, and cross lines. Don’t they all? God is still calling you to love them, for free, without conditions or having earned it. He doesn’t say like everything they do. He doesn’t say accept broken boundaries and move on. He says love them. Love them anyway. This is the part of scripture I think we are forgetting when it comes to our in-laws. This is the missing piece. It’s not all about our husband leaving his mother and father. It’s about us gaining our in-laws as our own, loving them, and choosing them. And when you don’t know how, just turn to scripture:
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13.