Amy and the “mother-in-law problem”

Amy and the “mother-in-law problem”

A story about a mother-in-law, irritation, salted potatoes, and the surprising solution.

4 min ·

“Have you remembered to salt the potatoes?” Her mother-in-law wandered into the kitchen and peered openly into the pot. This wasn’t the first time either. Amy smiled tightly as she nodded, but irritation was boiling up inside her. Why couldn’t she just leave her alone?

Amy actually has a good relationship with her mother-in-law. She comes over for dinner once a week, a really nice tradition. But lately she has developed a special talent for being irritating, in Amy’s opinion. It’s like she can’t manage to stay away from the kitchen while Amy is cooking.

This is actually the fourth Sunday in a row that her mother-in-law has peered into Amy’s pots “just to check if the potatoes have been salted.” Amy is getting more and more annoyed. Is this really happening? Why can’t she just wait outside the kitchen and be happy with what she is served?

The surprising solution

It’s Sunday again. Thoughts are whirling around in Amy’s head. What if she mentions the potatoes again? She starts to heat up just thinking about it. It would be so much easier if her mother-in-law was just a little bit different, and didn’t meddle in every possible thing. But suddenly a completely new thought hits Amy: maybe there is something different she herself could be doing?

Amy genuinely wishes to be better, more patient. Maybe this is an opportunity for exactly that? The more she thinks about it, the stronger the feeling becomes that this is the truth. And suddenly the whole situation is turned upside down.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

Finally there is something she can do about the situation! The truth is that it is her own nature that is tempting her to be irritated. She prays to God that she won’t give in to those negative thoughts the next time her mother-in-law comes into the kitchen. She asks Him to fill her with patience and good words instead, and that it can come from the heart, that she really means it.

Dinner is ready and it’s time to eat. Her mother-in-law hasn’t shown up in the kitchen at all today, and miraculously doesn’t mention either the salt or the potatoes throughout the whole dinner. Afterwards she thanks Amy for the food and goes home. At first Amy wonders what happened, but inwardly she understands that she won the battle anyway. It was enough that she was ready.

I am getting irritated

This is a story that I heard many years ago, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. It taught me something very important. I am the one that needs to be transformed. I am the one that gets irritated. I am the one that has sin. But here comes the best thing of all – I can be transformed!

In the end, Amy understood that the irritation came from herself, not from her mother-in-law. When she was able to see that, then she judged herself, and agreed with the truth. Then, for the first time, she got an opportunity to become completely free from it. The same applies to me.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32.

I do something about it

When I first realize that the sin lies within me, (no matter how uncomfortable that is) then I can also begin to do something about it. It’s actually a huge relief! I no longer need to wait and hope for the others to change – something that might never happen. I can “go to action” myself instead!

When I get to see my own sin, it’s really important that I don’t become discouraged. Hopelessness is not from God. (2 Timothy 1:7) I can rather pray to God for help and action-power, and get to work on myself and my own salvation. That’s why He shows me my sin – so that it can be destroyed. Disappeared. There will be room for something else.

What will the result be? After a while I notice that the temptations to do that which was totally natural for me, become less. With God’s help I begin to get the upper hand on irritation. Something else becomes totally natural for me – to react with goodness and patience there where I used to be grumpy.  And it comes from a true and genuine heart.

“And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.