In-Laws & Outlaws

Adrian Rogers, the longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, used to tell the story of the elderly couple who were making the trip from Memphis to Nashville. The husband’s hearing was fine, but he could barely see. The wife’s vision was fine, but she could barely hear. So she drove the car, and he communicated everything to her by leaning into her ear and speaking loudly.

Sometime during the trip, the couple pulled into a full-service gas station to get gas. (This was back in the days when such stations existed.) The attendant came out, looked at the wife in the driver’s seat, and asked, “Fill ‘er up?” Since the husband knew that she didn’t hear the question, he answered, “Yes.” The wife immediately turned to him and asked, “What did he say?” The husband leaned over to her right ear and answered loudly, “He asked, ‘Fill er’up?’ and I said, ‘Yes.'”

As the gas was filling into the tank, the attendant took advantage of the cut-off mechanism on the pump handle and walked around to the passenger door to strike up a friendly conversation with the husband. At least he thought the conversation would be just between him and the husband. He soon found out, though, that even though the wife’s hearing was almost gone, she still liked to be informed. So the conversation went as follows:

Attendant: “You have a nice car. What kind is it?”

Husband: “It’s a Chrysler.”

Wife (looking at the husband): “What did he say?”

Husband (leaning toward his wife’s ear): “He said we have a nice car and asked what kind it is. I told him it’s a Chrysler.”

Attendant: “Where are you folks headed?”

Husband: “We’re going to Nashville.”

Wife: “What did he say?”

Husband: “He asked where we’re headed. I told him we’re going to Nashville.”

Attendant: “Where are you from?”

Husband: “We’re from Memphis.”

Wife: “What did he say?”

Husband: “He wanted to know where we’re from. I told him we’re from Memphis.”

Attendant: “Memphis? Oh, I used to know a woman there. She was the meanest, hardest, bitterest, coldest woman I’ve ever known in my life.”

Wife: “What did he say?”

Husband: “He thinks he knows your sister.”

Unfortunately, there are many spouses who would agree with the old line, “I don’t have in-laws; I have outlaws.” And what is the cause of this unique problem in families? While there can be differing answers, one that is found on all the lists is: “My spouse has never really left home.” In other words, some married individuals still rate their parents or siblings ahead of their spouses when it comes to loyalty, devotion, time, energy, and (let’s just say it) LOVE.

In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus references Genesis 2:24 and teaches that there are two things involved in marriage. First, there is the leaving, as the spouse leaves father and mother. Second, there is the cleaving, as the spouse cleaves to the other spouse. And make no mistake, there cannot be a thorough cleaving until there is a thorough leaving. But here is where the breakdown so often occurs.

Sometimes the parents, for whatever reason, simply won’t fully release their child to the new spouse. Other times the child, for whatever reason, won’t cut the umbilical cord from home. Sometimes the siblings won’t let go, and so they become a nuisance in the life of the newlyweds. Other times the newlywed husband or wife is the one who won’t properly let go of a brother or a sister. All of these situations create problems.

The bottom line is that God’s word places the marriage relationship above all other earthly relationships. Certainly parents and siblings play their roles in the grand scheme of life, but once a person gets married, that changes everything. Even when a marriage produces a child, the relationship between that couple and that child never outranks the relationship the couple has between themselves. As Jesus said, the husband and wife become “one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). You see, that isn’t said regarding any other relationship on earth, and it means that once a person gets married, that relationship takes priority over all other relationships. The only exception, of course, is the relationship between the married person and Jesus Himself.

This entry was posted in Children, Family, Fatherhood, Husbands, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenting, Priorities, Wives and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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