Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be adopted? Perhaps you have been and know full well the contrast of being without a family and being in one. Maybe you, like me, have never known that feeling. Or maybe we have.
Romans 8:12–24 reminds us our sin made us outsiders with God, but that through Christ, God has adopted all believers as His children. Despite our sinfulness, His grace casts out of us a spirit of fear and replaces it with a spirit of hope. He chose to love us; He chose to extend grace to us. In so doing, He made it possible for us to experience love and grace in deeply profound ways—and to be invited in.
Experiencing God’s love and grace can bring about profound changes to relationships. The warmth of one heart eventually softens the anger of the other. I’ve watched children once empty due to the abandonment of their mother or father begin to bloom under the loving care of a stepparent. I’ve been inspired when a mother speaks well of her children’s stepmother and insists that they respect her. Despite personal risk, people in stepfamilies are choosing love and extending grace.
Essentially what is happening in these situations is stepfamily members emulating the mercy of Christ by welcoming the outsider. In his book Relentless Pursuit, Ken Gire aptly reminds us that “The story of God is a chronicle of pursuit, an ongoing search for those in hiding—for those of us who, for whatever reason, are on the outside.”
Jesus extended the hand of welcome to tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, the disabled, foreigners—to sinners. He came to turn spiritual outsiders into insiders.
All of us—you and me—were outsiders until His grace found us and made us His sons and daughters. Out of gratitude we should seek to do the same with others.
It’s a matter of the heart
Consider how you might extend this grace to those in your blended family. Change starts with your heart.
Recently, I met a couple who teach my DVD series The Smart Stepfamily in their church alongside his ex-wife and her new husband. Yes, you read that correctly. They co-teach the program—together.
The real story is how they got there. The stepmom shared with me how she felt the Holy Spirit’s leading early on to buy her husband’s ex-wife a Christmas gift. Despite what at the time was an antagonistic relationship, she obeyed God. Eventually this effort to “bring the outsider in” paid off and the two women became friends. Since then, the conflict between homes has diminished, and relationships between stepchildren and stepparents on both sides have improved dramatically.
To discover this kind of blessing, we must first put aside resentment over the past and possessiveness concerning the present. I often find the most miserable people are those who covet the loyalty of children over the other home, attempt to eliminate their spouse’s time with children, or refuse to cooperate with the other home for fear that acting nice might allow them to intrude on family time.
The Father’s heart toward you was/is that you move from an “outsider” to an “insider,” and He isn’t afraid of what will happen to Him if you join His family. To move past your petty insecurities, stop hardening your heart and building walls and learn to soften your heart and open doors.
The stepfamily journey is essentially about the process of helping outsiders to become insiders with one another. When stepparents and stepchildren emulate Christ and invite one another in, something powerful happens. The uncomfortable outsider finds belonging, jealous and hardened hearts soften, selfishness dissipates in the face of sacrifice and loving one another, and God is made central in that home. Amen and amen.
Adapted from The Smart Stepfamily Revised & Expanded Edition (2014) by Ron L. Deal, Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used with permission. All rights to this material are reserved.