IT’S AP-PARENT SERMON SERIES
MIXED BLESSINGS – BLENDING TWO FAMILIES INTO ONE
SEPTEMBER 11, 1994
It’s amazing to realize this but only 27 percent of the 91 million households in our country reflect the traditional nuclear family unit. That means the majority of families are single parent or blended families. They are in the majority. You are lucky today because on this stage you will meet the typical American blended family. Dad, that’s right, meet dear old Dad. Here is what Dad sounds like in the traditional, blended family. (piano tune) Mom, come on out here. Listen to what Mom sounds like. (a differing piano tune) Beautiful. Dad had two children from his previous marriage, come on out kids. Let’s go. (additional separate tunes added to others) Mom also had two children from her previous marriage. Come on out kids. (more individual tunes added) They are a bright bunch, aren’t they? Really a handsome family. And finally, Mom and Dad have their own child. (one final additional tune) How does that sound? (total disharmony). All right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I thought I was talking about a blended family. It’s sad to say but this blended family was anything but blended. Did they mix together very well? Come on, what a joke. That was horrible. Why? All these people are incredible musicians. Most are studio musicians. What happened? They all were doing their own thing. And when you do your own thing in a family unit, especially in the blended family, you are not going to have harmony, you are going to have something called dissonance.
I want to share with you, blended family, how you can have harmony in your family. I want to share with you, blended family, how you can experience unity and a true mixing in this family band. The Bible tells us in Philippines 4:2, “Live in harmony in the Lord”, your first verse on your outline. If you are wondering what you outline looks like, open your bulletin, you’ll see a card with all of these musical instruments on it, that’s the outline. Philippines says, “Live in harmony in the Lord.” This applies to single adults. How many single adults do we have in here? Wow. Hundreds and hundreds. It applies to those of us who are married. It even applies to the single parent family and the blended family. We are to live in harmony in the Lord. In other words, God loves you and loves me so much, He cannot stand the thought of people that matter to Him experiencing dissonance, doing their own thing. So He wants us to have, here’s the word again, harmony. “Well, how do you do that, Ed? How do you have harmony. I am in the blended family, I am a single parent and dealing with all of this mess, how do I have harmony?”
Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s go back to basics because the first thing you have to do is, if you are considering remarriage, if you are considering doing the blended family gig, audition the musicians. Audition the prospective musicians. Stan Durham is a pastor in our church. He is the big guy on the piano today, he played the father. He is involved in the media ministry of our church. He writes most of the dramas every week, he puts together the band and works together with his assistant, Glenn McClure, and they do an unbelievable job. If you talk to Stan and Glenn they spend a lot of time doing something called audition work. They audition people. You know, we don’t just say in a capricious, haphazard manner, “Hey you, yeah right there, in the cool kind of golf shirt, kind of green with blue trim, I heard you used to sing, like when you were in junior high school, man, come on up here you are part of the praise band.” “Oh, you played the drums? Great, a female drummer, like in junior high school too, in the band. Well come on up, let’s go for it.” What would happen if that happened? Chaos. You would go, “Oh, they have the worst music in the world. It doesn’t make sense, it sounds like everyone is doing their own thing, there is no mixing, there is no blending.” It takes time to audition, to interview, to see how the individual parts of the band come together. Can they play jazz? Can they play Bach, rock, hymns, Christian country? Can they do all of that? If you are considering remarriage, if you are considering getting into the blended family gig, you had better take time to interview all the prospective band members, to sit down with them, to get to know them, to see how they mesh, because that’s the time to see if they come together not once you are married.
It takes two years, two years emotionally to get over the death of a spouse or the trama of divorce. So make sure you date your future mate long enough for everyone involved, the man, the woman and the children to act naturally around each other. We can all fool people, we are pros at doing that. We put on that Alex Trobeck game show host type smile, you know that? And people think we never have a bad day. Everything is always positive and good and we are really up-beat, we are ready to tackle the world. It takes time to watch people act naturally. But you see, we serve a God of a second, third and fourth chance. He keeps going and going and going. And just because you have been divorced, it is not the end of the world. It will say it once, I will say it again. You don’t have to fly coach spiritually behind the curtain for the rest of your life just because you have been divorced. Yes, you can fly first. God wants you to fly first class and He might lead you into the blended family unit, into a remarriage situation. You had better pray about it and date the person long enough to really know what is happening.
It may be the second chance, though, to achieve God’s ideal. And we come to the marital table during a second marriage with more maturity and hopefully and prayerfully, we have learned from our mistakes. But there is something that is troubling me, that I have seen over the years in talking and counseling with so many young people. These young people who come from divorced homes lean toward getting divorced in their own lives. The percentages are staggering. If you have parents who have been divorced you are more likely to get a divorce. And I thought about that, I said why in the world is that a trend? Why is that happening? Why am I experiencing that? And here is what I read and figured out this past week.
Parents, when you get a divorce you are not teaching your children to learn from your mistakes. Take time, energy, effort to bring them inside and say “This is where Daddy messed up.” “This is where Mommy messed up. This is not the best way to do it. I was wrong in this area and you should act like this in a relationship.” Learn from your mistakes. Now consider this.
Also, if you are thinking about remarriage into the blended family, take your eyes off the nuclear family. The nuclear family is a man and a woman together and 2.3 kids. That is not the blended family. That is not the blended family. The blended family is a whole different scene. It is a breeding ground for jealousy, envy, complications, mistakes, hurt feelings. But it can happen and you can be obedient to Philippines 4:2 even in the blended family. However you are going to have to spend more time in the studio, more time working, more time listening. If you put Pavarotti, Mick Jagger and Garth together, do you think you would have unity like that? After awhile you would. But it doesn’t just happen, you know, naturally. It takes time. And the Bible gives example after example of blended families. Some good examples and some bad examples. But make sure you read and know God’s word and see what it says about it. When I think about the blended family, I think about our man Jacob in Genesis 35. Read it this afternoon. Read Genesis 35, 36, 37 and 38. Jacob had four wives, two were sisters, twelve sons, a meddling father-in-law and they all lived together in adjoining tents. Do you think they had problems? You read it. It’s no use to go to very many movies or watch soap operas, man, you talk about exciting stuff, read the Bible. Intrigue, espionage, murder, I mean it goes on and on. It is right here and we can learn from the mistakes of Biblical characters. And that is one of the reasons I love the Bible. God doesn’t try to protect everything and everybody. He doesn’t say, well you better not show them your mistakes or your shortcomings or your failures. I can see it right here.
But also there are many other examples of the blended family where good things happen. I think about Eli. Eli had two sons who were nuts, Hophni and Phinehas. And Eli was a preacher. And you have heard about preacher’s kids. These kids were over the edge. But God gave him a second chance and gave him Samuel to raise. And look what a great job he did when he had a second chance. Audition the musicians.
Let’s move to the second point. This second point has to do with, once you’ve been married. Once you have heard, “I now pronounce you husband and wife” and you are involved in the blended family, don’t miss this one, be sensitive to their styles. Be sensitive to their styles. Each of these musicians, they have a different style. And Stan is sensitive to their style. I am talking specifically now about children in the blended family – the style of the child.
You might not believe this but here is a cold, hard fact. It is more difficult and taxing on children when remarriage occurs rather than divorce. They are going to go through more trauma during remarriage than during the divorce. Why, you ask. That doesn’t make sense. Because when you get remarried it ends the thought in the child’s brain of reconciliation. Also they have to accept the new family unit, with a new authority structure. Their space is invaded. In the blended family everyone needs their own stuff. You hear me screaming. You have got to have your own territory. Because in the blended family, suddenly you have these aliens coming in after you and they are messing with your stuff. Make sure every person has some space, even if it is a little corner, Mom and Dad, that is their own for their stuff. The number one reason that the divorce rate is higher the second time around is over child rearing challenges. And that dates back again to what we are talking about, the blended family. So I encourage you to take your children and your new spouse’s children and interview them and audition them, know them and become sensitive to their styles. Watch them mesh, help them mesh, because it is so tempting just to get so involved in the man and woman thing that you tune out the children.
This past week I pulled up to an intersection and behind me I heard this.
(demonstration of rap music). And I thought, guys, he is like singing. (more demonstration). And people were looking at him laughing. The guy was oblivious. He was so into his style, the world was not even there. And I see parents, they have this blended family going, and the love is new and is fresh and they are so enmeshed in their tune, that they forget about their kids. And their kids go around saying, “Wow this is the worst thing in the world, a blended family.” It is not just Mom and is not just Dad, it’s everyone involved. Are you sensitive to the styles of your children?
Number three. You better learn how to sing a new song. If you are going to have this harmony and unity, and not dissonance, sing a new song. The Bible says in Psalms 33:3, David talking, “Sing to him a new song.” And I am sure the first time David pulled out the harp and started strumming that thing, people probably said, “Oh he is not singing traditional hymns any more, the guy is gone contemporary. The guy is a rock star, he has long hair anyway, he is a shepherd, he is singing a new song. Wow. What has gotten into the Hebrew kid?” Well David was singing a new song. After every great spiritual awakening, it is always accompanied by new songs. And in the blended family we have got to learn to sing a new song.
Do you know what tears blended families apart, and single parent families too? The 8-track tape mentality. OK, let’s confess. How many people had a leisure suit and 8-track tape. Raise your right hand. You talk about really bad. I had a lime green leisure suit, and it didn’t have lapels. This leisure suit, unlike some that had these giant-like elephant ear lapels, I thought was the greatest thing in the world. And I had this 8-track tape, it was my favorite, “The Best of the Bee Gees”. How did one of those guys sing that high? How did one of those guys sing that high? Unbelievable. We, though, listen to the 8-track tape in the blended family, in the single parent family. What am I talking about? I am taking about, “Oh the past, my spouse, this ex is such a jerk.” And we have all this anger and resentment and we play the tape over and over and over again. And over and over and over again. And we get bitter and we are bitter at them, and they are bitter at us. Take the 8-track tape mentality and throw it out, and pop in a CD. And a CD stands for something different today. It stands for a Christian deliverance. And here is what this CD will play if you are smart. Philippines 3:13-14. You talk about a powerful verse. This is one of my life verses, one of my favorite scripture verses. In fact, I preached from this verse the first Sunday I ever spoke here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas four years ago. Here is what Paul was saying. The Apostle Paul was advising his friends at Philippi to do this. “Forget what lies behind”. Paul is saying, anything in the past that keeps you from progress, you had better forget it. Forget what lies behind. I am glad we serve a God who tells me and tells you to forget what lies behind. “Reach forward to what lies ahead.” Isn’t that great? We serve a God who wants us to reach forward. “I press on toward the goal (we serve a God who wants us to press on) for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” You can’t forget, you can’t reach forward, you can’t press on if you look into the past and are wearing out those 8-track tapes. It is time to put in that CD, that Christian Deliverance, that Compact Deliverance and sing a new song. We are the blended family. Yeah, we’ve made mistakes. Yes, we have had problems. Confess those sins, deal with them, work through the grief and then move out ahead because God has a new agenda, a new course, a new avenue, a new highway for the blended family. I will say it again, though, it is not easy, but with God’s help, you’re talking about a power source, He can give you the power to do it. You can do it.
That brings us to our final point. Create harmony. I had to do some singing in my life, one time. This musical man, his name is Gary Moore, walked up to me one day and he said, “Ed, you have a really low voice and you know I am doing a musical and putting together kind of a trio and I wondered if you would like being in a barbershop quartet? Would you consider it, Ed?” And I said, “Well, no, I have never done that before, no.” And he kept after me. I said “Ok, I will try out for it, I’ll do the audition.” And here is my audition, right here. All I had to do was this right here. He goes, “OK, Ed, hold the lowest note possible that you can produce, and hold it there for about 10 seconds.” So I had to go….(demonstration). “That’s it, Ed, you’ve got it.” I said “What?” And he said, “That’s it, that’s all we need.” So the big event came at the music hall, downtown Houston, I was part of the barbershop quartet. When he would nod to me, I would just go (demonstration). People came up to me afterwards and said, “Oh, what a beautiful voice, unbelievable. Harmony. You just know how to create that harmony, Ed.” I started laughing. It was pathetic. Create harmony. That is what I am talking about. How do you harmonize? Because too many of us are tone deaf relationally.
I want to say a word to parents, and these are going to be some strong words parents, hold on to your theater seats, and then a word to children. I don’t care if you are five years old or twenty-five, involved in the blended family, listen to these principles. This is how you do it.
Parents. If you are going to really do the blended family gig, first of all you have got to become co-conductors with your spouse. Become a co-conductor with your spouse. In seminary I had to take a music class and I did learn how to direct. You have got to join hands with your spouse and become co-conductors leading the blended family. OK? If you don’t, Mom, you will be reading one piece of music, Dad, you will be reading another piece of music and you will have dissonance. You have got to come together, have one musical sheet in front of you and you both direct. When you direct though, make sure that you never defect, and that is an easy temptation to fall into in the blended family. Because what happens is, OK, you agree with your spouse, you are going to become co-conductors in discipline, in responsibilities, in rules and then you see your child from a previous marriage, your biological child and you compare him with the step-daughter and you begin to get sensitive and you kind of defect from your music, Mom or Dad, you kind of do your own thing with your own child which is human nature. Make sure you sit down with your spouse and you set forth in writing what every person’s responsibility will be in the blended family and also, how their responsibilities will bleed over into the other family unit. You have got to set those principles forth, you have got to put them down and you have got to direct together. And also, you have got to work with your ex-spouse in the other household and have some common ground you agree on. And you have got to realize the need that your child has to be a vital member of both households.
Since we are talking about music and being a co-conductor, I want to kind of push the pause button just for a second and I want to say some words to single parents. We have so, so many single parents here. Single parents, I think you are the greatest. You’re talking about difficulty, you’re talking about a challenge – its being a single parent. I have seen so many wonderful things happen over the years as God has led and has touched single parents and given them power and ability well beyond their years and their capacity. I want to share with you though some statistics you need to understand in regard to this single parent game. When a divorce occurs, the wife usually has a 76% cut in her finances, in her income. The man on the other hand has a 46% increase in his income. In 90% of the cases the wife is the custodial parent. And there is so much guilt going on and in some circumstances, single Moms, watch out for this, you are so guilty and you are so bitter that you end up trying to get rid of the guilt by becoming overly permissive with your children. You will let them do anything, because you feel like, well if I am overly permissive, I am kind of like making up for my mistake in the divorce. And these children suddenly begin to run over you, Mom. And you begin to treat them like peers. And that authority base is gone.
Let me talk to single Dads. Single Dads, our problem with guilt is that we become the purchasing parent. Everything is fun with Dad. Weekends, entertainment, excitement, adventure, wow, it just happens for us. “You are with Mom most of the time, but when you are with Dad, man, it’s going to be great.” And we ease the guilt by getting into this mentality, single Dads. Friday night we had the whole family out in the front yard having a picnic, pizza, fruit, salad. My mother-in-law is in town from South Carolina, and we were kicking back having a great time. And a couple of houses down from us there is a single Mom and she lives there with three children. And we watched this drill over the last couple of months. Her ex will drive up in his black Cherokee, turn down the street and he will walk to the door and about two seconds later the kids will go off with him and he will take them home for the weekend. This week, classic, I mean this is the quintessential single Dad, as he turns the corner I look at his truck he had an enormous box from Toys R Us in the back. I said, “Lisa, look at that. Lisa, that is what I am talking about Sunday.” And he goes up and the kids come down, “Oh, Daddy’s got a new toy, see you Mom.”
Single parents, I am talking to Moms and Dads, make sure you deal with the guilt between you and God and you and your ex-spouse, that you don’t pour it on your children. Make sure you do that. And also make sure, if you are going to mess up, mess up on the side of being too strict, not just, “Well, if it feels good do it. Highway robbery, whatever.”
Now getting off the pause button and going back to the blended family. That is why in many circumstances with the blended family you have children who run the show. Why? Because they ran the show when Mom and Dad were single and the blended family happened and they think they can run the show again. You have got to establish that authority. You talk to any band member, any player in an orchestra, they will tell you that someone has to call the shots. It has got to be Mom and Dad presenting a unified front, being co-conductors.
Number two. I am going quicker now. Don’t use your children as relational ammunition. That is the second thing, parents. We have live ammunition all around us, our children. They are like little bullets and arrows and we take them and fire them at the other family. Pow. And it just tears them apart. We just use them over and over and over again. Don’t use your children, Moms and Dads, as relational ammunition.
Number three. I told you we are cruising. Respect their routines. Establish your own routines, blended family, new routines. Also respect the routines of the other family and especially be sensitive during the holiday shuffle. The holiday shuffle. The kids flying from this destination to that destination, here for a week, there for a week. Be sensitive to that. And also parents, a little extra credit work, do as much as you can to enhance your child’s relationship with your ex-spouse. If you have a problem with the ex-spouse don’t tell your child something like this: “Well your Dad’s just a jerk. That’s why we got a divorce anyway.” If you have a problem, if he is being a jerk, talk to him, talk to him about it, don’t use your child. Now let’s talk to the children and we will be out of here. Children. The first thing, children, that you have to do is, you have got to understand this whole game, you have got to understand even though, even though you don’t have both of your biological parents that you still have to accept that authority base. And having said all of that, you have got to quit blaming yourself, you hear that, for your parents’ breakup, for the divorce. Children don’t blame yourself. Don’t play that blame game because it will kill you. And again, I have counseled too many teenagers and they tell me, “Ed, you know, if only I would have behaved better, if only I could have brought Mom and Dad together, then they wouldn’t be divorced today.” It is not true, It is not your fault. It is their fault, they are adults. So don’t play the blame game.
Number two, children, refuse to be used. I’m talking about relational espionage. Some parents send the child off, and then interrogate the child upon his or her return. “Did Daddy have a girl friend?” “Has Mommy gotten a job yet?” Don’t take part in relational espionage. The adults should be talking to each other.
And finally, the last thing, accept their choice. Accept their choice of a new spouse. Accept it. It is not going to give you any brownie points or any great trophies for you to berate your parent’s new mate. That is not going to help.
We have talked today about the blended family. I want you to stop right now, no one moving or stirring and I want you to have your eyes fixed on these different instruments right here. I mean have them fixed because we are going to bring out this typical, traditional blended family again and see what they sound like because they have heard the message, they have applied these truths and principles. Dad. Mom. Dad’s children. Mom’s children. And finally the child from Mom and Dad. Hear that harmony. Everyone pulling together. No one doing their own thing. That is the kind of music that God wants to hear and He can hear if we understand what it means to have a blended family.