Family,  Parenting

Grace In Life’s Messes: Hope for Blended Families

I want to take a few minutes to talk about something that is pretty close to my heart. I hesitate though, because I don’t know the answers the majority of the time. Most of the things I write about, I haven’t perfected and probably don’t do well; but I at least know what I’m supposed to do, how I’m supposed to act. But when it comes to this, I don’t know. And if I’m really honest, the fear of failure here is another reason that I hesitate to start this dialogue.

A dialogue about step-parenting and blended families. It’s so rarely talked about, but so real life. There isn’t a lot of guidance out there for step-families, especially those trying to figure out how to honor God with their complex family. The Biblical mandate for marriage is one man and one woman for a lifetime, which makes it hard for the church and Christian culture to know how to support blended families. Because if everyone had followed God’s plan, they shouldn’t exist. But we do exist. Families that are broken by sin, but are chasing hard after Jesus, and trying to raise kids to do the same thing. 

My family is one of my biggest sources of joy and one of my biggest sources of emotional turmoil all at the same time. This weekend was a perfect example. All four of us were hanging out at home, and my 11 year old stepdaughter was having a preteen attitude moment. She had been sent to her room to take some time to readjust. My 7 year old stepdaughter and I sitting on the couch coloring, waiting for everyone to come back before resuming the movie.

It was then that one of those sweet moments occurred. Hallie approached me earlier and asked if we could sit in the living room and color together. I really didn’t want to; I was tired. But I couldn’t tell her sweet little eyes no. She grinned and said we could share a paper, so each of us didn’t have so much to color. We sat and chatted about 20 different topics for about 15 seconds a piece, as long as her attention span would let us linger.

As we colored though, I was listening to my husband upstairs trying to reason with Ava. I heard some eleven year old manipulation, using both mom and dad’s separate conversations. After the grown ups had finally had a conversation, Ava had a chance to have her say. As I listened, I felt a little pit in my stomach. A thought that made me pause. Ava’s parents shouldn’t have to be in two separate houses attempting to get on the same page and discipline together, mostly over the phone. Ideally, Ava’s parents should be working together in proximity to each other to have a united front to confront the issue. They did present a united front, but it was work, and left a lot of room for an eleven year old to get creative in the middle. I almost couldn’t fault her for trying to take advantage of it.

And if I’m totally honest, my next thought was this. “The girls’ parents really should be married to each other, raising them together.” And I found myself feeling bad, like I had done something wrong by inserting myself into a family that wasn’t mine to start with. Like I was not the right person for this family.

Part of that thought process was right. The girls’ parents still should be married. If I look at what God spoke in His Holy Word, I know that He never intended for parents to be raising kids in two different households. He never intended for kids to have ‘bonus parents’. He never intended for two people who promised to love each other until they die to come to a point where they decide they absolutely can’t. This isn’t the way it should be.

But it’s the way that it is. We live in Satan’s domain, and we fight the effects of sin in every area of our lives. Satan isn’t stupid. He knows that the best way to try to cripple a world full of sinners is to attack the very heart of creation- our marriages and families. We can’t be naïve about this fact. Sin has caused the model that God intended for families to split down the middle.

But we know the ultimate outcome. Satan may have some power on this earth right now, but he won’t for long. Eventually, all his scheming and plotting will get him thrown into his own fiery pit, and Jesus will reign in all his perfection and glory.

So how do we live in the mean time? We live in grace. Yes, sin has torn apart countless relationships and created strange mixtures of families. We don’t live in what-should-have-been, but rather in a way that pleases God as best we can despite our circumstances.

I think of David. A man after God’s own heart. Sin snuck in and tore apart his family. Satan really doesn’t have to switch up his game too much to stump us humans. David had an affair with a married woman. In an attempt to cover it up, he had her husband killed. Genius plan, right? But the truth came out eventually, when Bathsheba ended up pregnant. And the Lord loved David too much to not confront him on his sin. David realized what he had done and repented.

And God forgave him, but he still had to live with the effect of that sin. He was told… “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.” (2 Samuel 12:13-14)

Not all effects of sin are quite as drastic as death, but you get the point. David was forgiven, but God didn’t magically fix everything. Bathsheba still had to mourn the loss of her husband and her son, and still deal with the guilt of her sin. David had to deal with his sin of adultery and murder, and grieve the loss of a son. But God didn’t look at them and say, “You’re finished, I can’t use you anymore because you didn’t follow the plan.”

God is a God of grace even after we blow it. I can’t exactly wrap my mind around that. Why He still comes back to help restore our lives when it was our own willfull sin that caused the mess in the first place. But He does, and I’m so grateful.

After David’s son dies, the story goes on. “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him.” (v. 24)

And in case you didn’t know, Solomon went on to become one of the longest reigning, wisest kings of Israel. God blessed a marriage that was formed as a result of some serious relationship mess-ups.

I hope you don’t hear me saying that it’s OK to do things out of God’s will on purpose, and just hope His grace is there to fix it. I’m not saying that at all. There are always consequences for sin. David’s son still died. There is still tension in my family unit that is unfair to all four members of my family.

But you know what is right there with it? God’s grace and strength. So please have a little bit of extra grace for those blended families in your life. Their road is filled with complexities that yours may not be. And vice versa.  Let’s all have a little bit of extra grace for each other.

And let’s talk about it. I know this step mama would appreciate a little bit more constructive dialogue. And I’ll do my best to do my part in that dialogue, starting with this article. I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, but I’m figuring it out by His grace. Let’s work to be real and strengthen each other as we all try to glorify God in all our different walks of life.

  

2 Comments

  • RHONDA Bratcher

    I will say this for sure… you are doing great. I know how tough it is to be a stepmom. But when they grow up and not until then you will know where you stood all that time. It is a wonderful feeling. I pray that days of coloring turn into days of long talks and complete understanding. Thank you for sharing your story, it brought back memories of my parenting days. Good and bad days… but we are all learning. Whatever you mess up my dear you can fix with the Grand babies. 😍

    • KWatkins

      Thank you, Rhonda. I really appreciate the insight from someone a little further on down the parenting journey. It’s an encouragement!

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