The first time I had heard the term, “blended families,” was in the 1990′s. It was from a father in a family at the congregation my wife and I were attending at that time. He was referring to his children and the children of his second wife living together. At the time he was optimistic. I had learned some 10 years later that they divorced and the families were split apart.
My parents divorced when I was 10 years old in 1964 when divorce was a rare thing. As you may imagine my siblings and I felt like the “black sheep” of the neighborhood. My mother did not remarry until we were all adults. My father, however, married the woman of his affair and raised the two daughters of his second wife. The two daughters were considered our step-sisters. The man my mother married had 5 children of his own. But they, too, were adults when we began “blending” our families through visits and short term living arrangements. Since we were adults, my siblings and I appreciated and enjoyed our step-father’s children. We also grew to love our step father. But not so with my father’s wife and two daughters. My siblings resented his wife, seeing her as the reason for our family split. I had made the decision to accept her as my father’s wife, since it was really beyond my control and there was no sense in creating further angst. I think the resentment for my siblings was increased due to their being children at the time. And as such, from my experience, it does not work with children. My mother’s decision to wait for us kids to grow up before she remarried was a wise decision for it by passed the problems children experience with dealing with step siblings in a blended family union. Blending children together in the new marriage exasperates the feelings that all children have that the divorce was somehow “their fault” and their longing that their parents somehow will still remarry.
No one in my family is a follower of Christ. I was not at the time of the divorce. I came to Christ when I was 32. My personal experience, and the knowledge of the first family I mentioned in the beginning of this post, is that blending families are poor substitutes for the failure of the first families. Blended families are not new and all have the same cause for existence: sin. All the way back in Genesis families were dysfunctional from the fall of Adam and Eve. Cain murdered his brother Abel. Lamech took two wives creating the first recorded blended family, although technically it is considered polygamy. Lamech told them that he had murdered a man. Was the man he murdered the husband of one of his wives just as David murdered Uriah to have Bathsheba? We don’t know. But having two wives is a type of “blended” family. Which was the same with Abraham and Sarah who gave her husband her handmaid Hagar as a surrogate mother since she was barren. But when she had her own son Isaac, the Lord stood with Sarah in casting out Hagar and Ishmael. If Ishmael and Isaac grew up together, only the Lord knows what kind of problems would have developed.
We do know that Jacob had 4 wives that begat the 12 sons of Israel. That blended family was rife with sin. They sold Joseph into slavery. Levi and Simeon murdered the men of Shechem after Dinah had been raped. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law after she realized that he was not going to give his youngest son to her in marriage, so she pretended to be a prostitute to get a child. The stories go on an on throughout the Bible of the troubles that arose from blended families. Need I continue by mentioning the problems David had after his sin with Bathsheba and the revolt of Absalom from his wife Maacah?
I understand the desire and intention of those who have arisen from the rubble of one failed marriage to attempt to create a new marriage with a blended family. But frankly, I do not see biblical support for that endeavor. The New Testament has some very straight forward statements on these matters.
1 Cor 7:10-11
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.
11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (NIV 1 Cor 7:10-11)
How can anyone miss this? It is a straightforward directive: if your spouse leaves you, do not seek remarriage. But that is not what believers do. They seek a new spouse as fast as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I know the grace of God which is why Paul said earlier in the chapter:
1 Cor 7:8-9
8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.
9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (NIV)
But this understanding of grace is not an encouragement to go out of your way to find a new spouse. Rather, the Lord in knowing your lust or loneliness, in his time and wisdom will bring a new spouse when He knows you are ready. That is not based on your emotions but your discipleship and maturity in Christ. The encouragement not to seek remarriage is repeated many times.
1 Cor 7:19-20
19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.
20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. (NIV)
1 Cor 7:23-24
23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
24 Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to. (NIV)
1 Cor 7:26-27
26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.
27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. (NIV)
Experience shows the wisdom of the biblical admonitions. There is only one thing that matters, your trust in Christ which is revealed by your peace and patience. Seeking remarriage before Christ opens that door, is a formula for repeated divorce and damaged children. All my siblings have been married and divorced at least two times and one five times. One of my sisters was married once but never remarried. She is not a Christian. I, alone, have remained faithful to my wife and have remained married to her for 20 years. I did not marry until the Lord told me to marry her. Knowing that she is the will of God for me has been my anchor through our trials because of my first love for Christ. And this is what Paul means:
1 Cor 7:28-29
28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; (NIV)
Of course, Paul does not mean men should live like bachelors. He is speaking of how our genuine freedom in Christ is manifested. Immature love is self centered. Those who divorce, at least one party, had a selfish love. Maturity in Christ means being Christ dependent and other centered not self centered. Selfish love is addressed in the epistle of John.
I Jn 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (KJV)
John is not referring to punishment in Hell. He addresses the anxiety and frustrations of trying to get your needs met through your spouse. The perfect love, or mature love, does not have these fears because the mature follower of Christ has confidence in his dependence on Christ to meet his needs. This is what Paul means when he says that we who have wives should live as if we had none. And this applies to the wives regarding their husbands, too.
The damage done to children through divorce sets them up, like my siblings for a pattern of immature love that runs away to a new spouse when the trials come. And trials come to all people who marry or stay single. Compound those problems with additional problems children face in coping with step siblings, who may or may not be there in the future, too. If the family is not Christian, there is a high likely hood that the teen age sons may molest the step sisters, not seeing them really as “family”. Then there will always be the inevitable favoritism that the natural parent will show their own children.
Consider the story of Joseph. The Bible does not tell us who wanted Joseph dead the most. All the brothers hated him because their father Jacob favored him above all his sons. Why did he favor Joseph? Because he loved Rachel, who was the only woman he wanted to have as his wife. But because of Laban’s deceit towards Jacob, and his love for Leah, he switched them on the wedding night. Leah knew she was not loved by Jacob, and clearly loved him just as Rachel loved him. God gave Leah favor and opened her womb first in providing her with the first set of sons. This put Rachel in a panic that she might actually lose Jacob’s love so she is the first to offer her handmaid Bilhah as a surrogate mother. Leah now had the fear of losing Jacob’s love (whom she never really had) and offered Zilpah.
The two sons of Bilhah, Dan and Naphtali, were first raised by Rachel as her own. But when Joseph was born, and she had her own natural son, she dismissed the boys, returning them to Bilhah. No doubt, the boys knew who really loved them, Bilhah. It would seem that Dan and Naphtali would have the most reason to resent Joseph. Then after Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamen, Dan and Naphtali would resent Joseph even further as Jacob lavished his love on Joseph. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the multi-colored coat that Jacob gave Joseph. I have been told that the coat was a symbol of authority, and that Jacob was saying to the rest of the sons, Joseph is my first born and heir to my wealth. So it is easy to see why the rest of the sons would resent Joseph, too.
Blended families increase the dysfunction of the family. The Bible and life show this truth. Television shows have willfully been trying to portray families in a wide variety of ways as being equal. They are not. Marriage for life of one man to one woman raising the family together is the only way families have a chance to succeed, and even that will be hard with Christ. How much harder without Christ? Children need to see parents who are mature in love, who are married, yet do not depend on each other because they depend on Christ.
As I said earlier, the grace of God is there for us all. He knows our needs and lets remarriage and blending of families occur. My encouragement and point of this post is to all who are seeking either marriage for the first time or remarriage to wait on the Lord and not press the issue. Father wants to bring us to mature love which requires our love for Him to surpasses our love for our selves or anyone one else. Jesus said:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.(Matt. 10:37 KJV)
And in the same context:
Mark 10:29 -30
29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. (KJV)
This is His promise that if He is first in your life then He will meet your needs of marriage and bring you to mature love that loves others without need of return and is the state in marriage when you are married, yet as though you are not. It is not necessary for you to “arrive” in mature love before you marry. Frankly, marriage is the best tool that God uses to bring is into mature love. But it is necessary that you “arrive” at the point where your heart desires God more than marriage. So, if you have never married, brothers and sisters, wait upon the Lord. If you are divorced with children, you may have the heart attitude of God first, but do your children? Not likely, therefore all the more reason to wait upon the Lord, and perhaps, as my mother did, wait until the children are grown before entering a second marriage.