Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
You have heard, more than you needed to, how difficult it is to be in a stepfamily. People in step contend with “bratty kids”, “mean stepmoms”, “interfering in-laws”, “angry exes”, and “harsh stepdads”. We fight against statistics which tell us the odds are stacked against us. After all;
- It takes four to eight years for a remarried family to “gel” and feel like a family.
- The divorce rate for remarriages with children is almost 65%, with most divorces occurring within the first four years—before the family has had time to bond.
- Nearly 50% of people in Christian church congregations are in a stepfamily situation but stepfamilies remain one of the most overlooked demographics in terms of ministerial support.
If that weren’t enough, those of us who live in step experience more daily stress as a normal course of doing “stepfamily life” than any other family category. Every day we navigate roads full of marriage derailing potholes like; disparity of treatment between natural and step children, shock of realizing instant love is a myth, co-parenting issues with former spouses, financial strain due to child and/or spousal support obligations, loyalty conflicts, extended family acceptance, legal issues related to the care of stepchildren and so on. These partners in crime conspire to kill our dreams of happily ever after.
Yet, with all of these challenges and problematic dynamics, thousands of people take the plunge into stepfamily living every day. Why? Some might say it’s because we’re crazy. Actually, we are people full of hope; and rightly so. Jeremiah 29: 11 states: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD , ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” We do not serve a careless God. He pays attention. He’s intentional about our lives. Nothing is beyond His power to use for His glory and our good. Including our stepfamily relationships.
Like most things in life that are challenging, there are blessings that come with being part of a stepfamily. Lifting weights is challenging but the blessings of being stronger, and healthier, with a higher metabolism are worth the effort. Completing your college education is challenging but the blessings of achieving a goal and increasing your options are worth the effort. Stepfamily life is challenging but the blessings that make the effort worth it are:
- You are a walking, breathing testimony of God’s ability to heal, redeem, and recover dreams. John 1: 12-13 reads, “Yet to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
- You probably have a great sense of humor. The only way to survive living in step is to develop a keen sense of humor and a self-deprecating manner, which makes life fun. (Bonus blessing: humor and humility moves you up 30 points on the 100-Point Attractiveness Scale!)
- You live in an environment that’s ripe for entertaining stories.
- The work of grace abounds in your heart and home.
- You’re in good company. Luke 3: 23 reads, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph…” Jesus was a stepson!
- You are living proof that you and your spouse are courageous individuals.
- You are becoming much more patient than you ever thought you could be.
- There are tons more interesting people around to get to know and, eventually, lean on.
- Your understanding of unconditional love in the face of rejection makes you all the more aware of God’s great love for you.
- You very quickly learn how to rely on God for family success.
- You become a much more grateful person as you begin to thank God for the small gains.
This is the short list! While the challenges can be perplexing, the benefits are worth facing them. Every day we wake up and ask God for strength. Every day we extend grace, patience and forgiveness because we know the blessings far outweigh the difficulties.
My husband and I gladly walk this precarious road of stepfamily living because we have our eyes on the prize: a truly bonded family. Am I being realistic? I would not have thought so had it not been for the faithfulness of God, my partners in building this family, and my husband’s stepdaughter (the daughter his first wife brought into their marriage, also known as “our oldest”). One Mother’s Day she handed me a gift and said, “It’s wonderful having two moms.” Which leads me to my personal favorite blessing; a heart kept young by surprising acts of love.