Speaking the Truth in Love

Settled in Court?

In 2000, a family squabble in Washington State made national headlines. A young woman and her husband had two small children. Tragically, the man committed suicide. When the woman remarried, she decided that her former parents-in-law were interfering with the establishment of the new home by visiting the children too often. So she asked them to limit their visits to one weekend a month. Dissatisfied with this arrangement, the grandparents filed a lawsuit.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Justices ruled that as long as the parents were fit, they had the right to determine who would visit their children—and when. Everything settled, right? Not exactly. The grandparents were distraught over the Court’s decision. They were now to see their grandchildren only one afternoon a month. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The parents, who had spent $100,000 on legal fees, expected the grandparents to help pay. What a perfect recipe for unending resentment and alienation!

This miserable business illustrates the wisdom of God’s instruction in the creation narrative. After describing how the Lord has formed Eve and presented her to Adam, Moses concludes: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). When two people marry, they are to establish an independent family unit. Blurring or violating the boundaries of this new home produces stress that may either break up the marriage or badly strain close family relationships.

The failure to respect these necessary boundaries is common. A groom weakens his new home by asking his father for financial assistance. A bride carries every little marital complaint to her mother. Parents pop in uninvited, make demands, and give unwanted advice.

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