Healing in a family relationship
Several years ago, when my son told us he was going to marry his girlfriend, my husband and I were delighted. They appeared well suited to each other. They cared for each other in unselfish ways. Her family clearly loved my son as much as we loved their daughter. Having raised two sons, I was looking forward to having a girl in the family.
I thought it was a good sign when this young woman included me in wedding preparations. The wedding was a joyful time. However, there was often a distance between us. She was sometimes defensive toward me. Something was not right, but confronting her about this felt risky.
I pondered ways to win her over, gave compliments and even gifts. I also studied the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson and read the Sentinel and The Christian Science Journal for inspiration to pray for genuine harmony between us.
Since I had a sincere desire for my daughter-in-law’s trust and love, I saw that this right motive could be trusted and left in God’s hands. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds” (p. 1 ). This passage became clearer one day when I read that week’s copy of the Sentinel.
That issue included a testimony about relationships. The author sounded like me, a mother-in-law with a desire for a good relationship with her daughter-in-law. Mere human kindness, generosity, and encouragement had not worked for her either. The answer to her prayer was a revelation to me. I wrote down several points. The article helped me see that I needed to stop trying to win over my daughter-in-law. I had to refrain from trying to persuade her to my point of view (on any subject). I also had to refuse to live in a mental prison of hard feelings.
These points replaced my sense of personal goodness with the reminder that all good comes from God. Goodness is eternally manifested in God’s universal creation. I did not have to forge a good relationship by resorting to modes of human psychology—analyzing the human mind and its functions. Relationships based on good psychology are not always reliable, as the human condition is not always reliable; whereas, our relationship to God, divine Love, is always harmonious and eternal. In our real identity as God’s likeness we reflect and express this Love.
Human relationships do improve as we see our unbroken, spiritual relation to the Divine. I had to go forward with “the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; …” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 224 ). These ideas became spiritual reference points in my conversations and interactions with my daughter-in-law.
Then one day there was a shift. I had become distraught with grief over a certain situation when my daughter-in-law happened to stop by the house. I tried to hide my anxiety, but she just took me in her arms and hugged me. She assured me that I was safe and loved. This was an unexpected source of comfort and support. Her spontaneous, unselfed gesture was so healing. Not only did it wash away my grief, but it was a healing for the two of us as well. By adhering to a sense of impartial, universal Love, the human expression of love was purified and strengthened.
This encounter was a turning point. Our relationship has continued to deepen. There is an ongoing growth of mutual respect, kindness, and love. No human strategy could have effected this change.
I am grateful to all those who write articles and testimonies for the Christian Science periodicals. I read them, knowing that there are important revelations and inspiration in each one. Thanks to Mrs. Eddy for her foresight in establishing these periodicals for all readers to appreciate.