New Hope Notes
Blending Families in the Kitchen
Pastor Elwin Ahu
We are going to finish up the series of Desperate Households, and today I am going to talk about “blended families”. Either you or someone you know is involved in a blended family. Households can be confused, and sometimes you don’t know what is mine, yours or ours anymore especially with divorce. According to statistics, 75% of divorced people remarried, and 1/3 of these remarried into step families. And then 1/3 of these households involving step families ended up divorced again. While blended families have become predominant in the United States nowadays, the chance of failure for a second marriage is 60%, and for a third marriage it is 73%! What alarms us the most is the impact on the kids in these households. Studies showed that these kids will have problems in relationships, academic performance in schools and future marriages, and end up having divorces after they themselves have grown up. Another study indicated young adults have begun to embrace a serial marriage lifestyle, too. They have different spouses for different stages of life. They think they only need to stay married with one person only for a particular season in life. When a season is over, they think it is okay for them to divorce the spouse and remarry another person that can help them to succeed in the next season of life.
If you yourself are in a blended family, here is the good news for you – your family is not any less valuable than those who didn’t go through divorce or re-marriage. God doesn’t think of you any less than those who are in traditional families. God still has the best for you and still has an answer for you. The Word we are studying today is going to review the hope from God for you. But we have to make the right choices that will determine our families tomorrow. What are the choices we need to make? Let’s read together Josh 24:15 to find out.
“...choose for yourselves today whom you will serve ...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15)
Here is the first choice we need to make, our point number 1 – make sure that our FOCUS is on the Lord
1. What is the FOCUS of your family?
Please make sure the focus of your family is upon the Lord. It would be really confusing and a lot of problems will come when the focus is not on the Lord. For example, if a divorced man with kids marries a woman who doesn’t have kids, what should the man’s kids call the woman? Or a divorced man having kids remarries a divorced woman with kids, how do the children call each other? What are the roles for each of them? What do you do when problems surface? The answer is to put our FOCUS on the Lord. Besides, what is our family built around? What stands in the center of your family? Let’s read Psalm 127:1
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1)
Putting the Lord as the focus means that we have to build our households around the Lord. Otherwise, everything is in vain and failure must come. It doesn’t matter how many self help books you read or how many counselors you talk to, your family will fail if you don’t put the Lord at the center and foundation of the family. A lot of times, people think they have put the Lord in the center because they go to church together and read the Bible together. All these are not the best way to tell if the Lord is really in the center of a household. Actually we should look at who is getting the attention in a family! And a lot of the times it is the children that are. For some of you, children or step-children become the center of the families instead. It could be because you want to please them and make it up to them. And at times the parents fail to set boundaries and discipline because of the fear of losing them, being rejected or hurt. Sometimes we place the feelings of rejection, pain and hurt in the center of our families, too. And we use all our energy to think of ways to get back at the person who hurt us. These are indications that God is not in the center of a household and so will only lead to failure. If your family is going through struggles now, let’s think about who God is and who Jesus is to you. If we have Jesus as our center and focus of the family, we should respond the way God wants us to.
As the Bible says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4:8 NIV)
Do you want harmony and peace at home? Then fill our minds with the best from the Lord, meditate on things that are true and noble in Him. Think of His righteousness, joy, peace, love, and all the fruits of the Spirit. We cannot have our minds filled with rotten ideas about our hurtful feelings or pain. It is indeed difficult but it will bring peace to you and the family. When you want the peace, harmony, and the blessings from God, you have to do it in God’s ways. It is a promise from God and He works everything together for the greatest good as we follow Him. As in Psalm 128:1, 3-4, it said
“How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways… Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Ps. 128:1, 3-4)
So we need to fear God and follow Him, then the family will be blessed by Him. When we fear the Lord, we respect Him and His values, and this leads us to respect one another, which is our second point here:
2. Set RESPECT as your goal, rather than performance
A lot of the time we choose to focus on performance rather than respect. We also lose respect for someone because another person’s performance is not meeting our expectations. Even if you can perform well, a relationship still fails without respect. There was a time I went to visit Royal Hawaiian Hotel for the items they were going to donate to our Molokai church. The house-keeping lady was very nice and was a very good host during the whole site visit. At the end Pastor Elwin wanted to tip her but found out that he forgot his wallet! But the lady replied “No problem, they know you are Chinese, you never tip anyway”. So Pastor Elwin felt bad as if there was no respect for Chinese that way.
When someone performs very well but doesn’t give you respect, how would you feel?
And what is respect? We should respect despite people’s faults. Respect is not contingent upon performance. We cannot gain respect from others by increasing our performance too. It does not work that way. Let’s read Philippians 2:3-4.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3-4)
If we set expectations and respect only when the others meet them, the relationship must fail and that’s not how we should do it. Instead, as Paul said in Philippians, we should think of others more important than ourselves, so we will respect others first before anything else. As we cultivate the respect for one another within the family, performance will then naturally follow, not the other way round.
Respect shouldn’t be given based on performance. We respect by finding values in a person despite their failures or faults. Let’s also read Ephesians, which is all about respect and family. It said:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph. 5:25)... and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband (Eph. 5:33).
Children, obey your parents in the Lord (Eph. 6:1)... And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)
Here, we see that it is all about love and respect within a family, not performance. It is not about how much a spouse or children can perform, do or bring in for the family. As we build our family around God, respect is given as a part of the family regardless. Then performance becomes an overflow from our hearts when we respect one another first. And when we respect, we would also begin to seek to understand one another, which leads to our next point:
· Seek to UNDERSTAND rather than try to persuade
As we put what is important for others as ours, we will start to seek understanding and we would not push others to do things our own ways. In a family, we are actually blending different habits, tastes, cultures, values and backgrounds together. It is like going to a foreign country and you would not persuade others in a foreign land to do your own way. Instead we would try to understand how others think and why others do it differently, so we can live with them in harmony. If we don’t do that, we will only keep fighting with each other just in order to push our ways through. And this will never result in any success, harmony or peace in a marriage or a family.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19 NIV)
So we should not fight against each other in our family over what we think is right anymore, but to do what is right in God, which is to seek to understand one another, slow to speak, don’t fight and force others to do things in our own ways, and don’t rush into persuasion and argument.
For parents, if you have children or step-children in your blended family, please take time to understand them and respect who they are. Give them the time and space they need to sort things through. They need it. Don’t rush them to accept your ways. Also give yourself permission not to be completely liked by them. You don’t have to prove yourselves to gain respect from them. You just have to love them. And the best way to love them is to love and respect their birth parents as the way God loves each of us.
For children, give your parents time and respect, too. Give them the time and allow them to sort their issues out because they are just as confused as you are. They don’t intend or plan to mess up your lives. If possible, encourage your parents to seek the Lord.
When you respect and love one another in God’s way, you will become patient with the process. Here is our third point:
3. Be patient with the PROCESS.
We have to give the time to see things grow into good results, we can never rush it. When you put God as the center of a relationship, God will begin to work through it, but you have to be patient to wait and see the goods from God. As Colossians 3:12-13 said,
“Therefore... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3:12-13 NIV)
Take time to bear one another. If you want to see something grow, the goods inside something, you have to be patience though it is not easy. If you know there is diamond underneath the ground under your feet now, would you take all the time and resources to dig through the concrete to get the diamond out? It is the same for your family. There is a diamond in your family and you will be patient to let things grow and find the diamond in it.
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (Deut. 30:19)
If you do not want to fail, give yourself to God though it might hurt. Follow His Words, let God begin to shape you and your family into something great. But we have a choice to make today, to put God as the center, the focus and the foundation of your family. Love, respect and understand one another in your family, and be patient throughout the process. So what life do you choose today for your family?
1. What have been the focus and the center of your marriage and family? Why?
2. What causes argument the most in your family now? Does that hinder you from respecting one another in your family?
3. Is there anyone in your family that you have the hardest time with? Do you think you understand that person? What would you do from now on?
4. Is there anything that is grieving inside you that you haven’t forgiven the person who caused it to you? How has it been affecting your mind and the interaction with that person?
5. What life choice do you make today?