For the last few days, I have been researching vacation packages for my in-laws because this coming Christmas break, their dream of going on a vacation is finally coming true. We couldn’t be happier for them because for almost their entire lives, they have trudged along that fine line between being hardworking and being workaholics….and for once, we would love to see them really kick back and relax.
So what will it be? Bahamas? Dominican Republic? Cancun? As I have been clicking through different sites and showing them pictures of white beaches, crystal clear waters, and beautiful resorts that they’ve only heard stories of, their eyes always slightly glaze over. It is as if they are holding their breath and they can’t help drifting off into la-la-land. In fact, I have to nudge them here and there to snap them out of it by yelling, “are you excited?!!!,”..to which they can only nervously chuckle and nod their heads because they just can’t believe this is happening.
Now rewind almost exactly two years ago and imagine this exact same scenario. We were all huddled around a small laptop looking for the perfect vacation for mom and dad. It was going to be our gift for their 60th birthday. Finally, we found a cruise that looked nice enough and the price was unbeatable so we purchased it on the spot. In the months that followed, my mother and father-in-law counted down the days until December finally rolled around and they began gathering their passports and suitcases to pack.
Then just two weeks before their ship was supposed to embark, my mother-in-law asked if we could print out their tickets. Of course, I thought. No problem. Except there was a problem. A huge problem. When we went into her account to pull up their tickets, we saw in bright red letters, “Only 379 days until your cruise!”
Umm..what? The cruise is supposed to be TWO WEEKS away…not 379 days. Confused, we looked into it further until we finally realized (with dread) that we had booked a cruise for the wrong year.. December, 2015 which was one whole year away. Big mistake.
By the time we got around to sheepishly explain the horrible mistake to our parents (who I hoped would just graciously understand and excuse us), we were instead met with nothing short of unbridled fury. Immediately, my mother-in-law ordered her careless children into the living room with fire in her eyes. Of course we were all adults, but I felt about five years old as she proceeded to go on a tirade for the next half hour about how none of us knew how to honor or respect our parents and that if we had, none of this would have happened.
At first, I felt her rebuke was well-deserved and hung my head low, but there came a point I began to feel she was out of line and completely overreacting. I became shocked and offended by her response and her inability to see that it was an honest mistake made with good intentions and it had nothing to do with the disrespect she was so quickly accusing us of. I wanted to fight back and retort with all kinds of defenses, but thinking back to the advice of many, I clenched down on my tongue and said nothing.
When she was finally done, I paused for a moment and then began to say and do the very last thing that I wanted to and that was to get on my knees to beg her forgiveness. Wanting to be the bigger person, I imagined what a good daughter-in-law would do and apologized over and over again while putting my own feelings of offense on hold, at least for the time being. But truth be told, my little speech was given half-heartedly at best with disingenuous lip service as I searched for all the right words to simply end what I viewed as a very childish adult tantrum.
Yet to my surprise, as I continued to say all these words that I knew I hardly meant because my own feelings of entitlement were of course still boiling inside, my shallow actions began to slowly shed light on something that had never occurred to me before. As I searched for the perfect words, the correct posture, the right amount of eye contact, a tender touch to her hands here and there, the perfect balance of remorse and regret in my tone, etc, etc, etc, I began to realize just how surface level my “respect” for her really was.
More concerned with the way I appeared, I saw how little my heart really meant all these things that I was doing. Then thinking back, I began to examine all my gestures in the past, my attitudes, my mannerisms and manners towards her, everything I once thought nice and “respectful.” I realized it was all done self-centeredly in order to look a certain way while having very little to do with really truly honoring her. It was to simply pass as that good, respectful daughter, but just “passing” could never qualify as, nor communicate, true and genuine respect.
Apparently, I wasn’t fooling anyone, at least not my mother-in-law, and this was her chance to let me know. So having realized all this midway through my apology, I began to really ask her for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart, knowing I had never truly respected her in the first place and that all my actions thus far had carried very little significance at least as far as my heart was concerned.
The whole cruise ordeal may still have arguably been just an innocent slip up or maybe we really weren’t as attentive as we needed to be. Either way, that day I learned a great lesson and it wasn’t merely about needing to work on respecting my elders. It was about doing things with my whole heart. Whether it is that I am teaching my children, loving my neighbors, submitting to my husband, or respecting my parents, there is a world of a difference between wholeheartedness and giving leftovers or even doing just enough.
I think my mother-in-law had put up with subpar respect for a while because she knew we did not mean to disrespect her all this time, but I thank her for rebuking us and even showing anger the way she did, because in the end, wholeheartedness is very important and it is what God calls us to as well….wholeheartedness is what He is after and what He is most pleased with. It is the oil of worship that is POURED over Him, the most shameless and undignified dance we can dance before Him, the unwavering hope we fight to carry inside, and all that we do with our WHOLE hearts for others knowing it is really all for Him.
Since that incident, my relationship with my mother-in-law has soared to another level. As I have awaken all my senses to be diligent in this area of honor and respect, I can see she sees my heart even through my stumbling around …because I am still growing and have a ways to go…but in giving it a 110%, our bond has sweetly strengthened and my respect for her has truly grown in the process. I take the time to think of her well-being, to think of her comfort, to think of her heart, and it has made all the difference in the world.
Now, I have a greater understanding of the verse “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” It is a command and a principle that is so needed to better this world, to better our relationships, to better ourselves, and above all, to please the Lord.
Anyways, here’s to you uhmuhneem and abbuneem! Hope you enjoy THIS year’s trip!!!