Joseph StepFamily Ministries
As a young boy, I had the pleasure of going to see the circus inside the big top. The skilled tightrope walkers performed an act of daring, walking, running and cycling across a thin wire strung high between two slender poles. Everyone around me seemed to disappear as I fixed my gaze on the aerial performers who were risking life and limb to thrill us with their fearless act. Certainly they knew that with one wrong step they would plunge to an almost certain death. I tore my gaze away from the amazing feats before me to get another handful of popcorn, and that is when I saw it -- a huge safety net strung between the same poles holding the thin wire. It was as if my childhood fantasy suddenly burst that day in the r
ealization that those fearless performers had been safe all along.
Establishing a Stepfamily Safety Net
1. Slow down and take some time to understand what it would mean to you to put a new spouse above your biological children.
2. Make time to share honestly with your fiancé about your thoughts and feelings.
3. Seek out stepfamily pre-marital counseling. Do not just settle for regular pre-marital sessions that may not deal with the harder issues of remarriage.
1. Take an honest look at where you and your spouse are today.
2. Set a time, preferably away from the house, to talk openly about your thoughts and fears.
3. Think of creative ways you can show your spouse that he or she is your priority.
4. Share openly with your children about God's divine order for the family.
5. If you cannot come to grips with this issue, seek out help from your pastor or a trained counselor.
Years later, while prayerfully considering marrying for the second time, I found myself feeling as if I was back in that big top again. Those feelings of amazement and fear gripped me anew as I realized that I was the performer walking the thin, high wire. I began teetering over entering again into marriage when the first one had gone so badly. I found myself tottering over putting my children into the hands of another person who could hurt us so deeply all over again. Walking that tightrope, I took a deep breath and with all the courage I could muster in that minute, I looked down. You see, stepfamily safety nets, like their circus counterparts, do not just happen. They are intentionally rigged and strenuously tested to ensure success.
God intentionally rigged our stepfamily safety net in Genesis 2:24 where He established the “oneness” of marriage. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." When Tammy and I got married, we combined my four and her two children into a stepfamily of eight. However, if I see my family as God sees my family, I do not see eight people, I see seven. Tammy and I equal one, and then add six children. That means that no matter how hard I try, I cannot put my children between Tammy and I, because we are one, and one is indivisible. If I am to help rig my God-given safety net, then my marriage must become my priority over my parenting. I would guess that about now you feel yourself teetering and tottering on your own high wire, but please do not take this as you can "either" be married "or" be a parent. I am saying that you can "both" be married "and" be a parent. Just always set the marriage as your main priority. It may help to remember that parenting is a job that I work myself out of while marriage is a job that I spend my life working into.
Tammy and I ended our first full day together as a new family by establishing our stepfamily safety net. We began by calling a family meeting that first evening and asking the children what they intended to do when they grew up and where they thought Tammy and I would be. As we proceeded down the line, each child said he or she would be leaving our house at some time but that Tammy and I would stay here. I concluded the meeting by gently telling the children that since they would be leaving and starting their own lives, and since they all agreed that Tammy and I would still be here, that our marriage needed to come first. I was greeted with silence.
As surely as God has intentionally rigged our safety net, our children will provide all the testing it will ever need. Our testing at first was with little things, like asking Tammy for permission and then coming to me to see if I would give the same answer. The testing went on to become larger and heavier until the children realized that our safety net was holding. At some point our safety net simply quit being a point of contention with the children, and instead became their safety net, enabling them to take small risks with Tammy and me that they otherwise would have been too fearful to make. You see, it is not only you and your new spouse on that tight rope high above the circus floor, but it is also your children. And like you, they also need to see a strong, well-rigged safety net before they will be willing to step off their safe platform onto the tightrope of stepfamily risk.
Our prayer for your family is that soon you will find yourself high above the crowd on that thin tightrope, performing amazing feats of stepfamily acrobatics, knowing that your net will hold!
Todd and Tammy Gangl founded Joseph StepFamily Ministries in the fall of 2006. From the beginning, the entire Gangl-Wheeles stepfamily, including five of their six children, has been involved in every facet of the ministry. This straightforward and many times humorous blend of both parent and child perspectives on blended family life brings a uniqueness to their seminars not found in any other ministry. Based in Huntsville, Alabama, you can reach Joseph StepFamily Ministries at www.jsfm.org or by emailing us at [email protected].