Have you ever felt like Jon? He wrote to me asking for some encouragement; what he was really hoping for was a solution.
“My wife and I have been in the Crockpot for two years,” he started. If you aren’t familiar with this, it’s an analogy I use in my book The Smart Stepfamily referring to how family members come together—or cook—in a blended family. They aren’t forced together quickly as in a blender and they don’t cook instantly as in a microwave, rather they gradually soften and connect as do ingredients in a crockpot.
He continued, “We struggle with the many challenges you talk about in your books and DVD. Specifically we deal with my ex-wife and her nagging for more money. Also, we face my wife’s ex-husband and his anger issues. And then there are our five children, many of whom come and go according to their visitation schedules. Sometimes we really feel we need a shot in the arm of encouragement. We pray together every day, read meditations, and go to church, but we often get the urge to go back to Egypt.”
Hunting Magical Solutions
Jon’s last comment about Egypt, also, refers to a teaching point from The Smart Stepfamily. Just like the Israelites who, after watching God lead them out of bondage in Egypt, started longing for the security of the very place that once enslaved them, Jon and his wife wondered if life would be easier if they went back to divorce. Most people don’t ever really want to go back to Egypt, they just do because they don’t know how to control the uncontrollable stressors in their life. What Jon was really hunting from me was a magical solution to his problems. Knowing that will help you understand my reply.
“It’s good to hear from you, Jon. Just the other day I was thinking about my life, my faith struggles, and the Israelites looking back at Egypt. It occurred to me that, perhaps, one of the reasons they lost faith when caught between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea was that they were stuck trying to imagine a controlled future. That is, they, like myself most of the time, were picturing what was coming next and they couldn’t see how they were going to control it. You can just see them saying, ‘We can’t go that forward—there’s no hope that direction. We can’t go backward or stay here. We’re sitting ducks.’ Of course, all of this doom is imagined separate and apart from God’s presence.
“I often do that, don’t you? If you ask me about my walk with God today I can tell you how I interact with Him and what He is teaching me. But the second I consider the future, I find myself alone trying to figure it out—all on my strength with my resources, my wisdom. No wonder we get anxious and look back at Egypt—the future is doomed if it’s all up to us. But what if we imagined God with us in the future, providing wisdom for the moment and strength to endure whatever it is we have to face? When it comes to your challenges—ex-spouse, child support, and parenting five kids—perhaps trusting God to be with you in the future is more important than knowing what you’ll do on your own power once you get there.”
You know, between you and me, there’s a part of me that thinks I didn’t serve Jon well with my response, like I left him hanging without any solutions. That’s the human part of me that wants fix things for people and who thinks I really have the power to do that. That’s the same part of Jon who was looking for a magical solution.
But the spiritual part of me knows that I am much better off not knowing how to fix every stressor in life and dependent upon God, than constantly looking for ways to be in control, independent from God...and so is Jon.
Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of blended family ministries for FamilyLife®, a popular conference speaker on marriage and family matters, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s and books for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, The Remarriage Checkup, and Dating and the Single Parent.