photo by emdot
I know there are all kinds of “blendings” out there. Some are from a parent remarrying after the death of a spouse, others have a child out of wedlock and then marry later, while the majority come from the fallout of divorce. 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.
Blended families have all kinds of dynamics going on, depending on what each partner brings to the marriage. Who brings children to the new family, what the relationship is to the ex-spouse, where everyone is in their maturity in Christ, what their prior “church” experience is, etc. all influence the relational functioning in the family.
Bill, my husband, had two sons from a previous marriage. He came to his saving relationship with Christ during that marriage, and because that union was already dysfunctional, my husband’s Christianity actually acted as a wedge that further stretched the gap between he and his then-wife.
No amount of praying, asking for Christian marital counseling or trying to read the Bible together worked. Divorce papers were served on him and, in time, Bill signed them.
To say it was contentious would be putting it mildly. His house was cleaned out of everything, not once but twice. Bank accounts were emptied, credit cards were run up. The coup de gras was when the boys were withheld from him seeing them.
Throughout it all, in spite of advice from lawyers, family and friends to the contrary, Bill took a non-aggressive stance. He was a new Christian, but He remained steadfast in the Bible, praying for the salvation of his ex, letting her take advantage of him financially, and constantly praying for the biblical upbringing of his two sons.
God answers prayer in unexpected ways sometimes. Bill’s ex got into some trouble with the law and it was necessary for the boys to be placed full time with him. It was obvious to all who were familiar with his situation that God’s hand was in this.
It was during this time that Bill and I were engaged. I had never been married before, but we both decided that his four- and five-year old sons needed a united family, so we quickly (picture heads spinning here) moved our wedding date up. Like, that weekend.
I became an instant mom. No nine months of prep time, just, “Dear, we’re having four for dinner tonight.”
We launched headlong into the family culture. We took all our meals together, we attended church every Sunday, we played games and watched movies and threw a ball around in the backyard together. And everyday Bill would read from the Bible to his family.
Eventually Bill’s ex worked out her legal troubles. He wanted to help her reestablish her motherly bonds with her sons, thinking that was the right things to do, but mostly thinking that he could influence the relationship for God.
However, when one parent is low functioning the balance in the overall family dynamics is grossly out of whack. While the boys received godly instruction and a family-centered home during the week, on the weekends there was a totally me-centered atmosphere: no discipline, no academic support, no church. It seemed for every step forward we made with the boys during the week, they would come back home one or two steps backward.
Thus played out a constant source of tension and frustration. When the younger two came along, the dynamics shifted even more. The dichotomy between the two homes became even more apparent.
Inevitably, we (and I use ‘we’ loosely. I mean Bill) received the phone calls that this son had gotten into this trouble or that son had done this and Bill needed to straighten it out. Discussing, explaining, pleading and demanding that God be brought into the home always fell on deaf ears.
The ‘boys’ are now men. Steven is 24, Michael will be turning 23 in just a few days. How they ‘turned out’ will be the discussion of an article further down the series. Rachel, 16, and James, 14, are still at home.
Were there things we could have and should have done differently in how we handled everything? Undoubtedly, yes. Hindsight is always 20/20. Some of that will be discussed, too.
Christian blended families are today’s reality. There are lots of us out there, for better or worse. We’re called to the Great Commission just as other people are, but being missionaries in our own homes takes on nuances that most other families don’t have to contend with.
On Thursday, I’ll answer the question: As a step-parent, am I my stepchild’s parent or his friend?
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.