As I write, my sisters-in-law are visiting from Texas. I love my in-laws, and they are truly a part of my wife’s and my love story — it was during my initial meeting with them that I told my wife I loved her for the first time. That is too long of a story to share here, but seeing the genuine love that connects my wife to her siblings has made a strong impact on me, largely because I do not have the same familial experience.
I’ve written before of my tumultuous childhood and my parents’ divorce, so I won’t rehash that here. Suffice to say that if you come from a family filled with genuine love and affection, this should probably be near the top of your gratitude list. I have only recently, for example, begun hugging my oldest sister when we’re together, and the same goes for ending telephone conversations with my mother by saying, “I love you.” So when I see my wife excited like a kid on Christmas morning as she anticipates the arrival of her sisters, it affects me. Such experiences are, sadly, foreign to me.
To be clear, I’m not writing about divorce, I’m writing about family. I once dated a woman from a family that was quite dysfunctional despite having two parents who had been married many years. One night, she told me she had considered ending our relationship because my parents were divorced. Such a view misses an important distinction: Many times children of divorce recognize the reasons their parents’ marriages ended, and they commit to doing things differently. For example, despite the fact that my parents divorced when we were children, my sister has now been happily married for 36 years. And, motivated not to make the same mistakes I saw my parents make, I didn’t marry until I was 43 — it took me a long time to meet the woman God had prepared for me (and, in fairness, it was no easy task for God to prepare her to deal with me!). I waited for a woman who, like me, saw marriage as a lifelong intentional commitment between each of us and God.
My wife’s family truly loves being together. I wish we could live closer to them so that we could gather every Sunday for family dinner, celebrate significant events, or just be close enough to stop in to say hello. I love the witness they provide to me of what a healthy, loving family looks like. Don’t get me wrong, there are some crazy people in that family (I won’t name names), so I’m not saying they’re perfect, but they do love each other, and they are committed to being a family. That’s the key, I think: Above all else, people must be intentional about love.
Learning from the examples of committed love God has placed in my life, I’ve made a decision to father my daughter in a way different than I experienced. In her 2 ½ years of life, I’ve already hugged and kissed her more than my parents did me my entire life. I regularly tell her, “I love you more than life,” and the other day I heard her tell her baby doll the same thing. Yeah, I teared up. Most importantly, each day I give her a blessing before she goes off to spend the day with Ms. Laura (her daycare provider); and each night, my daughter reminds us to get the holy water for her bedtime blessing. I attempt to love my daughter the way I see healthy families love each other, and she will never know a world in which her daddy doesn’t love her “more than life.”
The Dabrowskian interpretation of Romans 1:20 is “God can be known from all that surrounds us.” I thank God for revealing Himself through my inlaws, great families I know via Church and even through the mistakes I’ve witnessed (and made). God is love (1 John 4:16), and sometimes His love looks just like your sisters-in-law from Texas.