He didn’t invent the term, “blended family.” He didn’t even know the term, and yet David experienced the same dynamic in his family, for he had eight wives who are specifically named in Scripture, plus others who are not identified, and he had nineteen children who are specifically named, plus many others who are not identified.
Eight wives, nineteen children, plus! That would definitely fit under the category of a blended family.
Only in our day has the actual term become commonly used. This term, blended family, has replaced the more common term of the past — step families — to describe a family unit in which a formerly married woman marries a formerly married man and there are “my” children and “your” children and sometimes also “our” children.
How prevalent is the blended family in American society today? One writer suggested that one in six children in America today is living in a blended family. Another writer estimates that 1,300 new blended families are being formed each day in the United States.
The truth we need to acknowledge, which is confirmed by the experience of many here today, is that not every blended family is the Brady Bunch. Blended families present those involved with some unique challenges. This is the second issue I want to deal with in my series on the family: the blended family.
Where do we begin in the church in dealing with the issue of blended families?
We begin by acknowledging that blended families are families too!
We often get stuck in the fifties and think of family only in terms of a nuclear family — a father who works and a mother who stays home with two children. Actually, the nuclear family is only one form the family has taken over the centuries.
In the early days of the Old Testament, polygamy prevailed and family meant a man, all his wives, all of his servants (concubines) and all his children. In earlier generations of America, extended families often lived under one roof and family meant a man and woman, their children, and their children’s children and sometimes brothers and sisters and cousins and pets!
During the first half of this century in America the most common pattern was the nuclear family, but now, as we approach the end of the century, only about 7% of our families today fit this pattern. Often in our day, we have single parent families which means a mom or a dad living alone with the children.
Ken Dycthwald, in his book AgeWave, has suggested a new kind of family which is becoming ever more common today. He calls it the matrix family. According to Dychtwald, these matrix families will be adult-centered, transgenerational, and will be bound together by friendship and choice as well as by blood and obligation
And then we have blended families, literally millions of them which are a part of American society today, a part of the family of faith called Richardson First Baptist. So we begin today with this affirmation: blended families are families too!
Blended families face unique challenges
Having affirmed that truth, we need to take the subject a step further and acknowledge that blended families face unique challenges. These challenges are reflected to some degree in David’s blended family.
I mentioned last week the experience of Amnon and Tamar, both children of David but having separate mothers. Amnon, who had a passionate love for Tamar, raped her and then, his love transformed into hatred, he rejected her. Tamar’s brother, Absalom, burned with a desire for revenge for two years until finally he killed Amnon for what he had done to Tamar. Conflict and violence — a part of David’s blended family (2 Samuel 13).
Later, when David was in the sunset of his life, one of his wives, Haggith, put forth her son Adonijah as the heir apparent to David’s throne. Bathsheba, another of David’s wives, found out about it and she went to David and said, “You promised that my son Solomon would be the new king, but your son Adonijah has already assumed the throne.” David sided with Bathsheba and he started the procedure which would bring Solomon to the throne.
So here’s the picture: at the stone of Zoheleth, the other sons of David and the royal officials were shouting, “Long live King Adonijah” while in Jerusalem, Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet and David’s closest supporters were shouting, “Long live King Solomon.” Competition and division — a part of David’s blended family (1 Kings 1).
What of the blended family today? Similar problems arise. One article offered the following list of unique problems in the blended family:
– Divided loyalties between the families which are being blended together
– Differing parenting and discipline styles
– The financial demands of a larger family
– Competition between the members of the different families which are brought into the blend
– The difficulty of co-parenting with the ex-spouses
– Favoritism of the parent toward his/her biological child
And as a result of all these factors, extraordinary Stress is placed on the mother/father who are trying to make the blended family work.
For example, a forty-one-year-old mother, divorced after fifteen years, is blending her family which consists of herself and her five-and-a-half-year-old adopted daughter with Jack’s family which includes two biological daughters, ages nineteen and twenty, and an eleven-year-old adopted son. She is plagued, she confesses, by continuous contradictions. In her own words:
“I want his children to love me and be with us all the time. I do not want them at all. I want my daughter all the time, instead of 50 percent of the time. I do not want my ex-husband to father her; I want Jack to father her. I do not want my daughter at all. I want a fifth child, our child. I want no children.
I experience a complex emotional package of jealousy, anger, and fear. I am jealous of his ex-wife. I am jealous of his children, especially his two daughters. I feel inadequate; I do not bake like Kathy. I feel anger that Kathy does not work outside the home. I feel paralyzed when I see Jack’s children — inarticulate, scared. It is so much more complicated when you add the points of view of the children and Jack and the ex-husband and the ex-wife and her husband” (M. Feb, 1985, p. 40).
Are you getting the picture? Blended families start with B and that rhymes with T and that stands for TROUBLE!
Not that the trouble is insurmountable. Not that nuclear families, intact families — I’m struggling for the best term — don’t have problems too. But because of the complexities of the relationships and because of the emotional baggage the participants bring to the mix, blended families face unique challenges.
So how can blended families not only survive but also thrive today?
Here are three suggestions, drawn from a number of different sources: First, Acceptance. Accept the uniqueness of the blended family. Accept the fact that the family will go through stages on its way to wholeness. The blended family usually has a honeymoon period. One writer calls it a fantasy stage when everyone is on his or her best behavior. This will quickly dissolve into a stage of confusion and conflict as the issues begin to come to the surface, issues like:
– ex spouses
– living arrangements
– custody issues
– sibling rivalry
– discipline
– and the list goes on and on.
When the stage of confusion comes, the first impulse is to bail out. Remember that this is a stage through which you move from the fantasy of the honeymoon stage to the realities of the consolidation stage and eventually to the stage of genuine community or family. It won’t be easy — accept that.
And then, secondly, Benevolence. The essential ingredient in making a blended family work is an attitude of benevolence which is defined as:
– good will
– kindness
– unselfishness
– sympathy
– tolerance
– generosity
– amiability.
In this situation, as in every situation, the key is not the facts of the situation but our attitude toward those facts.
Thirdly, Communication,
– communication with each member of the family as you redefine roles and carve out new spaces and develop new relationships
– communication between spouses and ex-spouses to facilitate arranging schedules, discussing resources, and making parental decisions and
– communication between the spouses as they develop that new relationship between them which must be strong if the blended family is to work.
Somewhere between the myth of fantasy, “there’s nothing to it,” and the myth of fatalism, “it can’t be done,” is the terrain upon which you can stand in building your family. The ABC’s I just cited acceptance, benevolence, and communication will help you find that terrain upon which a growing, nourishing, dynamic blended family can be built.
What can the church do?
The stance of the church in this area is the same as it is in every area. We must continue, at one and the same time, to exalt the family as God meant it to be and to embrace the family as it actually is in this fallen, less than ideal world.
“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one” Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure” (Hebrews 13:4).
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right …. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Those are God’s ideals. That is God’s desire for the family, marriages that are permanent, children who respect their parents, parents who teach children how to live and exemplify those values in their own lives, husbands and wives who are faithful to each other, obedient children and loving fathers; that is the family as God meant it to be. The church must continue to affirm that ideal.
But in a fallen world, where no family ever achieves God’s ideal, where families are not always permanent or nourishing or respectful or loving, we need to embrace people where they are and assure them they are welcome in the community of faith.
Will you help me make our congregation that kind of church?

Share This On: