photo by SC Fiasco
I know there are all kinds of “blendings” out there. Please don’t think I’m ignoring your situation in favor of focusing on another. I believe the unique challenges in witnessing the gospel to stepchildren can be universally applied.
There are situations out there where, although a marriage ended in divorce, the subsequent interactions between ex-spouses are amicable and even cooperative. However, there are often just as many situations where the relationships are rocky at best. My focus here is where the ex-spouse specifically opposes the spiritual training of the shared children involved.
An online friend contacted me not too long ago about their situation. Her husband’s ex-wife was a devout Roman Catholic who adamantly opposed anything she deemed contrary to the Catholic tradition. Casual conversations (that normally took place even when the stepchild wasn’t present) about the Bible, God and religion in general would often make their way back to the ex-wife, setting up conflict between the two homes.
And of course the child is always caught in the middle when that happens. In this case, I fear that what gets highlighted is the negative aspects of ‘religion’ and what gets lost is the supremacy of following Jesus.
In this case my recommendations would be as follows:
Model Christ’s love to each other. Exemplify sacrificing for each other’s benefit and putting each other first. Demonstrate respect and honor, forgiveness and repentance, and grace and mercy. Display cheerful generosity as you serve each other and those around you. As you face challenges in life, in your marriage or through other situations, living the way Jesus would have you live will create a home where the difference is Christ, and the difference will be tangible.
Demonstrate the relationship, not the religion. Our faith is based on a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Emphasize the presence of Jesus in your life in a personal way. Let your child see you reading your Bible. Be a prayerful person. Although it may not directly involve the child, openly discuss spiritual growth, revelation or troubling convictions with your spouse or a friend on the telephone.
A friend recently shared with me that one of the most impactful memories he has is of “catching” his grandmother on her knees in prayer one day. Sometimes more is caught than taught, especially when teaching creates an obstacle to fully receiving what’s important because of circumstances beyond your immediate control.
In the same vein, as you go about your normal spiritual training of other children in the home, some of what is being taught will rub off on the child who deals with a dual household. I’m not advocating excluding anyone. I just know from experience that when one of my other children was in earshot of when I was teaching a sibling, the lesson often was not lost on the one listening in.
Connect as a family. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to regularly come together to play and to talk. Doing so opens up channels of communication, and when combined with the above two points allows a child torn between two homes to potentially share heart issues. Take your dinners together, get out a board game, go for a family walk, shoot some hoops or have a picnic, but regularly come together to share, laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
In our case, my husband’s ex-wife didn’t oppose us in our spiritual training of our children. The relationship wasn’t always cooperative, but she recognized the value of ‘religion’ in the lives of her sons. Our challenge was in having our teaching undone through the marginal parenting of a very worldly (and very lost) other parent. I’ll address this issue on Monday when I introduce you to a family that is doing an amazing job in overcoming that obstacle.
Let others know about this series. Please email a link, post about it on your blog site, or let your friends know through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. There are a lot of blended families out there who need this information and encouragement.