Luann was thinking of leaving…she’d had it. Her husband Frank was a control freak. He was always on her kids about something. When she tried to step in, he would yell at her, in front of her kids. She never knew what would set him off. Sometimes he was great but then he would change, like a light switch turned off, and he would be mad about something yet again. Her daughter didn’t act right or her son has a bad attitude or one of them didn’t do their chore perfectly or whatever. She felt he was always looking for that one thing they did wrong. She tried talking with him about it so many times but he only sees their part in all of it. He feels he is not the problem, they are. Luann is torn between protecting her kids and preserving her marriage. The more her husband is on her kids, the less she feels loved by him and the less respect she has for him. She wonders, “If he really loves me, why can’t he choose to love my kids and let them be kids?” Why can’t he rise up and be the adult and model for them the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. “If he wants this family to work, he needs to do some changing as well, not just my kids. He needs to put aside his control and his anger and lead our family with love.”
If I had just one key to give for a successful stepfamily it would be to be obedient to God. We need to not only be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word. Jesus says; “Why do you call me Lord? Yet you do not do what I say.” If he is our Lord, He is in charge of our life. It is our job to be obedient and to trust Him with the results of that obedience. If the whole family, particularly the parents, would decide to obey and model what Jesus called THE most important commands: to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and then love their family as they love themselves, wow! I wonder how different the family would be? Life is not easy. If first families are hard, and they are, blended families can be even more difficult. But choosing the route of love instead of control or selfishness or wanting our own rights or not turning the other cheek…these may feel good at the time but they don’t lead to a healthy, loving family. They are not founded on the truth of God. Why did God say these two commands are the most important? Because He knows we would truly find life. This is so contrary to the way we think in our culture. In our culture love means finding someone to make you happy. Laying down our life for an ungrateful kid, why would we do that? This is foreign to our thinking unless our minds have been transformed by the renewing of the Word. His ways always work best but sometimes we have to wait for good results. Sometimes it seems that the one who does not do things God’s way is actually on top and winning. But they won’t win for long.
I recently heard from a woman whose husband left with his kids. Now that he is gone, she sees her part in the break-up. Actually, she loved her marriage, she loved her husband but she just didn’t have time for his kids. She didn’t take an active interest in them and it affected the marriage. She didn’t realize how seriously until he left. Now she would like another chance. It seemed like she was on top, she had what she thought was a good marriage, but now it’s gone. Had she chosen to lay down her life and love on his kids, would they all still be there? You know, even if her husband still chose to leave, she would have the satisfaction of knowing she did her best.
It takes each partner deciding to live life according to God’s ways and not our own. And I’m not talking about a bunch of rules. I’m talking love and learning to die to our selfishness, we are all affected with selfishness. And when we choose to die to self, we can then model this lifestyle for our kids to “catch”. Our kids are more prone to catch our lifestyle when they see us live it rather than just telling them to live or be a particular way. When those kids leave your house, you want to have the gratification of knowing you did your best to lead them with love. They are an assignment from God if you are a follower of Christ. The more difficult they are to love, the more grace God will pour out on you to do just that. But you have to be willing. God won’t make you love them. You have to choose to love them. This certainly doesn’t mean we like them all the time or like everything they do. But we choose to keep our attitude toward them loving and are committed to them.
Proverbs 3: 3,4 says “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”
The one thing I would say to Frank is back off for a while. Let Luann do the disciplining. Build a relationship with her kids. Let them see you are interested in them and let Luann see you love them. I can pretty much guarantee that this will do wonders for your marriage.
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