1+1=2 and 2+1=3 and so on and so forth. . . simple math, right? Yes, of course it is. But what happens when 1+1=4 and 1+1=6? Mathematically, it’s an impossibility. In the world of families, however, one plus one does not always equal two. In the world of families, blended is not only common, but it may also be the new norm. Mom and Dad get married, and whether one or both of them come with children, life doesn’t just get complicated—it starts out complicated!
This article is not to shame anyone in or from a blended family. I myself am from a set of parents that were both divorced or widowed prior to their own marriage. I like to think we blended well, even when things got a little rocky. We hold on fiercely to one another in love, we honor and respect every member’s strengths and weaknesses, and we forge ahead. There are moments, don’t get me wrong. Wow, are there moments, but would I trade my family in? Not on your life.
The new nuclear family, more often than not, looks complicated. Isn’t this just the way life rolls? Complicated is the new black, and if we’re honest, life itself is simply complicated to begin with. Take that load off your shoulders before we go any further. You, blended family members, are not a less-than version of God’s plan. You may be imperfect, but God knows nothing better than bringing grace into all the imperfect places in life.
My family is imperfect. Your family is imperfect. The family down the street is imperfect. All of us, every last one of us are imperfect and in need of a perfect Savior. The blending of a family gives us a chance to see His grace in action in a way we wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise. That’s a beautiful thing.
Let’s identify some things that make blending a family complicated and apply God’s abundant grace in each one:
Leaving and cleaving isn’t just for Mom and Dad anymore.
A large part of leaving and cleaving is found in bringing together our families of different origins and making them a new family with new ideas and a new personality. In a blended family, this work becomes multifaceted. We are joining the ideas of the household we grew up in with another marriage and family life. It’s not only hard to choose what should stay and what should be revamped, but it also can be a painful and hurtful process with people and lives attached to each idea.
Proceed with caution. Proceed with tender care. Philippians 4:5–6 (ESV) gives us much wisdom in this:
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Be reasonable. “Be gentle,” it says in some translations. Love through the struggle. Handle with care. Use kind words to identify when something feels “off” in the family unit. Ask yourselves and one another, “Where can I/we honor the past and move toward the future?” Christ is at hand. He is in your family and in the arguments, not just in the moments of joy.
Forgiveness, forgiveness, and more forgiveness.
“[Bear] with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, [forgive] each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13 ESV)
Donna Pyle is wonderfully clear and full of Christ’s grace and truth on the topic of divorce in her book Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce. She shares the message that, in every circumstance of divorce, there needs to be forgiveness for both parties. I watched the bitterness of divorce eat at my family for too long. There is such a need for spoken forgiveness over each person touched by divorce. Speak forgiveness to your ex-spouse, no matter the circumstance. This forgiveness is not for their benefit, although it may very well have a spiritual impact long term. This forgiveness is for you and for your family. Bitterness is an ugly bedfellow. It eats away at our days and steals the joy of our nights. Loss also demands that forgiveness enter in. A huge part of mourning is feeling as though someone was stolen from you, dealing with the questions of why, and coming before God to let Him tend our broken hearts. Grace reigns when forgiveness lives.
Speak the knowledge and the truth of forgiveness over your children. They need to know that forgiveness reigns not only in eternity but today as well. Help them to speak what troubles their hearts from the divorce or loss. Let them know that any question is welcome. Let them ask hard stuff about life and about God. Pray over them in their beds and at the table. God will work His grace in them, even when all you see is anger, fear, or adolescent angst.
When we broaden our definition of family to include the whole Body of Christ in a living and active way, we let in grace to wrap our minds around God's healing of the relationships in our households. Whatever our past, whatever our present, whatever our future, someone else has been there. Many people are willing to share their own struggles and their own wisdom. Utilize your church family and know that if God can bring a ragamuffin group of believers together to form the Church on earth, He can blend your family well. His grace is the glue and the seal and the strength for each day.
“Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1a ESV)
The Lord builds. He builds your house. He builds your family. He builds His people together in the family of God to worship Him. He is so worthy.
And He blends. He blends well. We simply let His grace in.