Blended families are everywhere. Maybe your family is a blended or step-family. If so, you know blended families face unique challenges and issues. But while our problems may be unique in their details, the heart issues involved are much the same as those individuals and all families face.
Blended Families Part 2: “The Same Only Different”
In part 1, we talked about some of the very real losses that members of step families face and the importance of examining our own attitudes, actions and desires. Understanding those losses can help us become more understanding and asking God to help us examine our own actions is vitally important and an essential first step in the process of growth and change.
Charlatans & Frauds
Matthew 7.3-4 says:
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?(NLT)
Jesus was very descriptive in this passage, wasn’t He? My paraphrase is, “Who do you think you are, trying to get a speck out of someone else’s eye when you can’t see past that giant log in your own?” Then He starts the next verse with the words, “You hypocrite …!” (v. 5).
Two synonyms for the word hypocrite are charlatan and fraud. The Encarta Dictionary defines it as, “somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise.”
When we preach doing right to our family members and then respond in sinful, unloving ways, we’re playing the hypocrite! We’re frauds!
Why is this so important?
James, chapter 1:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
“Deceiving yourselves.” There is delusion, spiritual blindness, that occurs when we fail to examine our hearts and actions by looking into the mirror of God’s Word with a view to obeying it. We can respond selfishly and sinfully to others while believing we’re completely justified.
We face enough challenges in blended families, why add spiritual blindness to the list? But by looking into that mirror and being a doer of it, there is blessing.
And Hebrews 5 says:
14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
We have the ability to discern good and evil; that is we have wisdom, when we practice doing what’s right. So the difference between removing our own logs and being a doer of the Word, as opposed to being a hearer and not a doer, is the difference between delusion and wisdom.
By the way, James, the writer of the book by the same name, was the half-brother of Jesus. There were other siblings, too (Mk. 6.3), and Joseph was His step-father. That makes Jesus part of a blended family. More about His earthly family and other blended Bible families later.
But there is something else we need to understand about being a hypocrite or a fraud. When we tell others, particularly our children and step-children, they must respond one way (loving, kind, accepting, patient, etc.) and we do something else, we’re completely discrediting ourselves and end up provoking our children to anger (Eph. 6.4; Col. 3.21). It’s hard to imagine anyone not resenting a fraud and children are no different.
Unique Yet the Same
In part 1, I stressed the fact that blended families face some unique challenges, and that’s certainly true. But while our problems may be unique in their details, the heart issues involved are much the same as those all individuals and all families face.
1 Corinthians 10.13 says:
13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (NLT).
The temptations in the lives of blended family members are “no different from what others experience,” the NASB says they are “common to man.” Things like rejection, lack of appreciation, favoritism, disrespect, disharmony, hurt, anger, loss, and disappointment … are experiences and emotions we all face.
“And God is faithful.” He’s faithful to His promises. He’s faithful in His character. He’s faithful to keep working in our lives no matter what our particular circumstances.
6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Our Plimsoll Line
Back to our 1 Corinthians passage, “He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “The Plimsoll line is a reference mark located on a ship’s hull that indicates the maximum depth to which the vessel may be safely immersed when loaded with cargo. This depth varies with a ship’s dimensions, type of cargo, time of year, and the water densities encountered in port and at sea.”
Think about that definition for a minute. Human reasoning and understanding can determine how much cargo or weight a ship can handle. Too much weight might cause the ship to sink. Even too little can be hazardous as a ship sitting too high in the water can be in danger of capsizing, especially in rough weather.
God knows our ideal weight line or “Plimsoll line.” He knows that too much could cause us to sink under the pressure, but too little will make us weak spiritually, leaving us vulnerable to any storm that comes along.
He knows our dimensions (spiritual maturity), type of cargo (problems), time of year (season of life), and the water densities encountered in port and at sea (all the details of our situation).”
But just as the Gospel itself is true and has the power to change the lives of those who believe it, many of the promises of God are conditional on our willingness to believe them and act on them. We must do so, not just concerning major decisions, but in the day to day events of life.
We’re all faced with decisions every day. We’re all face with opportunities to respond to circumstances and the behavior of others. What is controlling those decisions and responses?
If you imagine your life like a train, what’s controlling or pulling the train? Is the engine of God’s principles, truths like these I’ve been talking about? Or is the engine of your emotions and what seems right to you?
If we believe 1 Corinthians 10.13 is true, we can slow down and allow God’s principles to lead our actions and decisions. But all too often, it’s our emotions in the engineer’s seat.
Even when we know and believe “He will not allow the temptation to be more than [we] can stand,” it doesn’t mean it won’t feel like it is at times!
Our emotions are real and they can be very powerful, but they’re lousy leaders! In keeping with our train illustration, our emotions need to be in the caboose. When we start allowing God’s principles to pull the train, we find that where the engine goes, the caboose follows. Our emotions will get in line with God’s Word, too!
And finally, “When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Our temptation is to make our own “way out.” We run. We quit. We divorce. Or we just withdraw emotionally by: leaving our spouse to deal with angry, confused children; throwing up walls to protect ourselves from the pain; turning to some fantasy life like porn; throwing ourselves into our work; deciding to focus on “our” children; or a host of other sinful responses.
But notice God’s “way out” is through the circumstances, “… so you can endure.”
Next week … Part 3 “Loving, Not Liking, Each Other”
If you have any questions on the subject of blended families or things you would like to see addressed, please let me know in the comments at the bottom. I’ll be glad to keep them anonymous if you request it.
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
The goal of life for blended families
The F-word in blended families—favoritism
How to prepare your children for being in a blended family
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
Helping your child be part of the “other” blended family
Dealing with “exes”
You’re not my dad!
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