Thursday, October 10, 2013

Who Cares About Step Families?

How Prevalent are Stepfamilies?
*These statistics were taken from
  • 40% of married couples with children (i.e., families) in the US are stepcouples (at least one partner had a child from a previous relationship before marriage; this includes full and part-time residential stepfamilies and those with children under and/or over the age of 18). The percentage of all married couple households is 35%. (Karney, Garvan, & Thomas, 2003)
  • Approximately one-third of all weddings in America today form stepfamilies (demographic estimate, Deal). In 2001, 38% of all US marriages were remarriages for one or both partners (15% for both; 23% for one) (Wendy Manning, personal communication Jan 2010, National Center for Family and Marriage Research). 

    Pew Research Report on Stepfamilies:
    A new national report (Parker, 2011) by the Pew Research Center on adults in America updates our national statistics on stepfamilies for the first time in a decade. NOTE: these statistics are on adults and do not include children.
    • 42% of adults have a steprelationship--either a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. This translates to 95.5 million adults.
    • 13% of adults are stepparents (29-30 million); 15% of men are stepdads (16.5 million) and 12% of women are stepmoms (14 million).
Myself and my family are included in those numbers above. I'm a product of a divorced family, who then got married at age 20, had two beautiful daughters and then was divorced by age 25. Unfortunately, I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ during that stage in my life, which didn't help my decision-making process. I came to know Jesus personally as my Lord and Savior at age 28. Through the process of growing to know Him through His Word, I can see very clearly why God hates divorce. I also hate divorce, now. Maybe this is why they say, "hind sight is 20/20." Or maybe a better explanation is found in the Word of God. John 12:40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they would not see with their eyes or understand with their hearts, and be converted, and I would heal them."

I was definitely blind and my heart was hardened when I went down the path of divorce. Only by the grace of God, and Him softening my heart, can I testify first hand, that my eyes have been opened. I do now see with my eyes, understand with my heart, I have been converted, and Jesus has healed me. I have been redeemed. Through that redemption, I also see very clearly, how God has redeemed my relationships with my daughters, my divorced and remarried mother and father, and how I have been blessed with an amazing, Godly wife, two wonderful step sons and a calling to ministry. 

I know from my past hurts, that I have a heart for those who come from broken marriages, broken families. I know first hand what it's like to be a 7th grade boy whose parents got divorced at a time when divorce was not the "norm" in society. I know what it's like first hand to have a step mother in the home and the complex feelings that result. I know first hand how a lack of knowing and following Jesus can lead to a broken marriage and end in divorce. I know what it's like first hand to follow my own selfish desires with a hardened heart, the pain and heartache that result, instead of following Jesus' way and receiving the blessings He had planned for me. I know what it's like to be a single dad for 13 years, who only got to see his daughters every other weekend or at times once a month. I also know what it's like to be a born again Christian, a single-divorced man , fully redeemed, and yet to feel "different" because of the divorce label I "wear" in the "church". And I also know what it's like to get remarried,  to become a step father to two boys and the complexities of being a step dad.

Who cares? What difference does it make? The statistics above should get your attention. They are very personal to me, but if you belong to the "body of Christ" they should be personal to you. Step and blended families are not just statistics that we should ignore. They are people with souls, not just numbers. 

We live in a fallen world. Fallen men, marry fallen women and no wonder we find ourselves with these statistics.  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23. The good news is that Jesus Christ died for all sinners who are saved only by His grace and mercy. "We", those who believe in Him, are all on the "same" team. "We" are all part of God's family. John 1:12 " But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name."

"We" the church of God, the body of Christ are ALL part of God's family. How are we treating those "believers", those "parts of the body", who are remarried with step children? Do they feel accepted by the body of Christ or shunned as those "sinners" who couldn't stay married? At least we are not like "them", right?  "Poor kids, they come from a broken home, that's why they act that way." Who is helping them? I was one of "those" kids. I am one of "those" divorced-remarried persons.

God's intention for marriage from the beginning, was that it would last for a life time. Because we are fallen, only through Him working in us and through us daily, can we attain that.

My wife Monica and I are committed to helping our daughters and sons understand why God hates divorce. (They have all felt and experienced it personally as children) We are committed to helping them to first see who Jesus is and to understand that "we can do nothing apart from Him." John 15:5. That would include the hope of them having a successful marriage that lasts "until death does us part." We are committed to helping guide them in the process of selecting a future mate by beginning that process early in their life, but ultimately, for them to make their decisions based on wisdom and discernment by using the Word of God as their guidebook.

I'm thankful to be able to serve at New Beginnings. I know that our church is committed to helping families to break the chain of divorce AND to also help step families and blended families to feel welcome. We hope to not only help them to navigate and survive the complexities that come from those situations, but for them to want to pass down to their children a strong conviction to break the chain of divorce in their families. Ultimately it should be the "churches goal, the entire body of Christ" to help change those statistics above, one family at a time. I pray for that in Jesus, Holy Name. Amen!

Terry Langenberg
Twitter: TheLangenberg
Facebook: TheLangenberg

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