Last year was an especially blessed year for our family. By the grace of God, our oldest daughter Emma was brought to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This in and of itself was worth rejoicing many times over. She was baptized in November and then had her first communion the following Lord’s Day. As parents, it’s a joy for us to see our child receive the visible signs and seals of the New Covenant–the result of being adopted into God’s family. Through this adoption she went from being a child of wrath to being a child of God. This is the beginning of the Christian life.
When Hollie and I were married in 2011, Emma and Rylee became my de facto adopted children. Everyone had to adjust to the new situation. There was more adjustment to come after Titus was born the following year. We are a blended family. This is who we are. Blended families are very common today and there are many such families within the church. Yet blended families are not seen as the ideal Christian family–because they aren’t. The fact is, many blended families are the result of sin (e.g., divorce) and so they aren’t prominently displayed. Yet at the same time, I think blended families offer a metaphor of God’s grace to us.
As is the case with many blended families, conflicts often arise and personalities clash. The girls weren’t happy about moving away from Ohio and were very vocal in letting us know that. They were out of their “comfort zone,” in a foreign place, and had a new authority figure (me) whom they had to obey. They missed their Mamaw and Papaw. What was once familiar was now gone. Needless to say, conflicts happened. Tempers flared at times. Emma especially would talk often about how she missed Ohio. These were some of the pains and challenges virtually all blended families face.
All the while, I was very careful about never referring to the girls as my step-daughters. Hollie and I both agreed that this was the right thing to do. Their names would be recorded in the family Bible alongside Titus and Zoe. In conversations with people, I always refer to Emma and Ry as my own daughters–because they are. This is what it means to be a family. Eventually their hearts were settled and we’ve grown closer and closer over time. I thank God for this, for it is indeed answered prayer. The whole thing has been humbling for me as I went from being a child-free bachelor to suddenly being a parent to two little souls. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
If we see blended families in the church, then we must understand (and appreciate) their unique struggles and challenges. At the same time, we have to recognize the work of God in these situations. Any family, blended or not, stays together and thrives by the grace of God. He created families out of His grace to us–for human flourishing. For Christian families especially, our family life must reflect the character of God. This is true for the typical nuclear family. It’s true for the couple who are unable to have children. It’s true for blended families. It’s true for those who adopt children and those families who lose a parent.
When explaining the Gospel to my children, I often use the language of adoption. Not only is this language found in Scripture itself, but it resonates so deeply within our minds. It powerfully communicates grace to us. We are not born children of God, but we are adopted into His family because of the sufficient work of Christ. The Father accepts us as His own because we have the righteousness of the Son imputed to our account. We receive His covenant sign and seal. We also–get this–bear His covenant name. John 1:12-13 demonstrates this:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
After Emma was baptized, she wanted to sign up for the new members class at church. The class is designed to give a more in-depth understanding of what our church believes, confesses, and practices. Before she put her name on the list, she came up to me and asked me whether she should write her own last name down or use mine instead. That melted my heart. I gently told her that she ought to use her own last name. I’m very careful not to usurp her family heritage or otherwise take away from her personal identity. Yet it does say something that she would feel comfortable enough to want to use my name.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that we are blessed to have a wonderful church family who has prayed alongside us and a pastor who has given us wise counsel when dealing with various difficulties. Praise God for His continual abundance of mercy poured out upon us! The church doesn’t exist to replicate a particular cultural paradigm we find in the world, but instead is made up of people from various backgrounds and family situations. Let us remember this as we minister to others and meet their needs.