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Wowing Your Blended Family with What They Need Most: Ron Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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March 9, 2023 5:15 am

Wowing Your Blended Family with What They Need Most: Ron Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 9, 2023 5:15 am

Could grace, played out in the nitty-gritty, revolutionize your stepfamily? Counselor Ron Deal chats about how to pull undeniable grace into real life.

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You don't owe your stepdad anything, but you can just put on a little kindness like you've been given. Let's just turn around and offer that to somebody who's in our home now.

I think that's a gentle reminder to give as you have been given. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

Yes, you are. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. Well, what a week it's been. All week we've been having a conversation with Dane Ortlund about being surprised by the grace of God. It's been powerful.

So good. And if you haven't had a chance to listen to that yet, go back and listen because you will love these three days we did with him. We're going to ask Ron Deal to walk in the studio.

He's going to replace Dane Ortlund. It's no small task. But Ron, you've been listening. Ron directs our blended family ministry here at Family Life, and we've had Ron in here many times. I guess I probably should say welcome to Family Life Today. We said that many times to you, Ron, but welcome in. Thank you.

It's always good to be with you guys. And so you've been listening to our conversation with Dane, talking about grace and forgiveness. It's hard to describe how Dane can spin a sentence in a beautiful way.

Yes. I'll start here. What jumped out at you?

And if we can apply this to blended families, great. But I'm sure some things jumped out as you listened. Well, let me tell you, it was a great conversation, series of conversations.

People really should go back and listen. I found myself writing all kinds of things down. I think I have too much to share and reflect on. But, you know, it starts with God's pursuit of us. That's really what grace is all about. It's so much more than just the forgiveness we receive through Jesus. It's the beauty and the blessing that He bestows on us over and over and above forgiveness. Like, forgiveness is just the beginning of the good stuff God gives us. We could unpack that, what it looks like in a family.

I'm thinking about parenting and how can I, even as a dad with adult children, how can I continue to parent them in a way where I'm not anxious, where I'm responding out of a confidence in them and my relationship in them, and that their behavior doesn't necessarily define who they are and I shouldn't react to their behavior too harshly and instead wrap love around them. When Dane talked about that, that was just amazing. But let's just start with this one. You remember when he was reflecting on the Gospel of Luke? And sort of a central message that Luke seems to have in how he carries the story of Jesus and how he communicates about it is that Jesus went around making outsiders to become insiders. That is, people outside the kingdom of God, He's inviting them in.

It didn't matter what their back story was. He had an openness to them. He approached them. He moved toward them.

And He invited them in. As I stop and think and reflect on blended families, I want you to just think about this for a minute. Same thing with an adoptive family. The big thing going on in an adoption situation, a foster situation, and a blended family is outsiders are being embraced and welcomed by insiders. You have people in a blended family situation, we call the insiders the biological family members.

So imagine a mom's got a couple of children and she's marrying a man who's becoming the stepdad to her kids. He might have a child or two himself, but let's just assume he doesn't have any kids. He's clearly an outsider. He walks into a family every day, sits down at the dining table, and there's four people sitting there and he's the only one who is new. They're insiders, mom and her children, and they have inside jokes and they have stories that he's not a part of. They have photo albums and videos he's not in, history, a story, a narrative, all kinds of looks that communicate messages that they all understand that he doesn't get. He is clearly an outsider.

And when those three people, mom and two kids, turn to him, open their heart, put a smile on their face, and say, hey, I want to get to know you. Hey, you just didn't get that joke that we just told because it's based in some story in the past, but we want to bring you in on that. We want you to be a part of us. You belong here. Think about that. There's something really incredible going on. There's a grace being bestowed upon that outsider to say, sometimes you probably feel like you don't belong here. It's okay.

You do. We're glad that you're here. I've long thought that that's what we want our churches to be like. That's what we want our homes to be like, and absolutely blended family homes. Over time, bringing outsiders in is a minor miracle. Ron, as you talk about that, I'm thinking of the parent who has their bio kids among them, and the new step-parent is there, and the kids don't want him to be there, or they don't want her to be there. How do we convince our kids to extend grace when they don't even like the situation? Well, this is one of those good examples of when we reflect on how much we've been given, how much grace God's given us, how much kindness has been bestowed upon us because we're, for example, in the family of God and people at church who love on you. What mom can do is keep reminding those kids they have been given a lot.

They have received a lot. I think this is the message of Matthew 18 and what we call the parable of the unforgiving servant. Remember the guy? Jesus tells a story. He's been given so much, and he owes a big debt, and his master says, you know what? It's okay.

You're free to go. He turns around and goes to the next guy who owes him a couple of bucks, and he lays into him, and he throws him in jail, and he mistreats him, and he says, you're going to pay back every dime. And the master comes to the unforgiving servant and says, hey, did you forget? You know, essentially the message is, did you forget what you were given?

No wonder you were so hard-hearted towards this servant of yours. Okay, the message for all of us is stop and remember how much you have been forgiven. I mean, this is a little bit of a sermon that mom can give to her kids, but it's also something she can demonstrate where she just says to her boys, you know, hey, I realize how much God's done for me. I realize, you know, all these family members, extended family that have been so kind to us over these last few years that we've gone through some difficulty in our family journey.

When we go to church, you know that guy who works in the student program and he's so good to you and you have a good time hanging out with him, right, that's the grace of God being lived out through that man. He doesn't owe you that. He's just being kind.

Okay, you don't owe your stepdad anything, but you can just put on a little kindness like you've been given. Let's just turn around and offer that to somebody who's in our home now. I think that's a gentle reminder to give as you have been given. That's so good, Ron, because I was thinking how easy it would be to shame them into that. Do you know how much we've given you? Do you know how thankful you should be? You know, that would probably be my tone more. But you're saying like, no, you gave them actual illustrations of remember that guy and even got to shame them into, you have to love him, you know. Oh, good. You know, I like that you're saying we give them grace, like I know that this isn't easy.

We're all figuring it out. But I like that you're pointing them to remember, you know, what Jesus has done for us and even a smile. And, you know, I'd be like, you'll do it and fake it, but you're not saying that. You're saying, ah, Jesus has done so much for us.

It's amazing. Yeah, I like that reminder. So that comment you made about you don't even have to love him.

I think that's a nice little piece to add on there. We tell biological parents all the time, tell your kids they don't have to love their step-parent or step-siblings on day one. We're going to trust that over time they're going to sort of figure out that territory and they're going to find their way into some heart affection and they'll decide how much they care for that person.

But on day one, don't try to demand or force love. By the way, isn't that another grace that God gives us? You know, what kind of lecture could he give us? And like, look at what I've done for you. Yes. Come on, guys.

Don't you think I'm due a little, you know? No, he never does that. He is so gentle.

He's kind to approach. He never shames. He doesn't shame us. He doesn't push us over.

He doesn't demand love. He just waits until it's an authentic expression of our heart. But in the meantime, he does invite us to respect who he is as God and begin to walk in ways that we will discover are good for us, right? I mean, there's even benefit to us, but that's another grace. He gives us, hey, here's some guidelines, here's a way to live that's going to bring a smile to your face and more peace to your heart. And in the process of doing those kinds of things, we fall in love with God.

I think the same thing can happen in a blended family situation. No, you don't have to love him. Yeah, you're going to treat him decent. You're going to be kind. You're going to pass him the salt when he asks for it.

You're not going to throw it at him because you don't treat people that way. So there's some boundaries and there's some expectation about decency and kindness and basic respect. And within that, I believe a heart connect will develop on its own time, in its own time, in such a way that the child genuinely feels affection than for the step-parent. Yeah, and I think there's probably some listeners that are the outsiders, like the step-dad coming into this family, like your scenario, the mom and her three or four kids.

I think they can do some things as well. I know that when my dad remarried, my new step-mom brought grace. I mean, as I think back, she asked me questions. She didn't sit there like waiting for me to accept her. She reached out to me, asked me about my life, asked me about my last week, asked me what I'm interested in. But she didn't push you. No, I mean, I was just thinking she was the outsider. We were the insiders and she initiated. She didn't come in saying, hey, I want you to accept me. She didn't even bring that up. She just said, hey, who are you?

Tell me about your life. Your dad has said this about you. All I know is I felt grace from her before I even thought about giving her any grace because I was resistant. I was putting up my hand and she sort of tore down my wall through love and grace. Dave, you just nailed the overarching narrative of the entire Bible. For the minute sin enters the world, God is pursuing us. Day in and day out, He's pursuing His people one way or another in acts of kindness, in establishing boundaries that will protect and provide for us. And ultimately, that whole story leads to Jesus, who is the ultimate expression of that grace, of pursuit of who we are. So absolutely, in any relationship, anybody listening right now, there's a person in your world, whether it's a family member or a coworker or a neighbor, and they're kind of prickly.

They're just not fun to be around. For you to softly and gently pursue them in whatever forms that might take to ultimately show them love long before they ever care about you, show love back, have any appreciation for who you are, that is reflecting the God we love and we serve. It's a beautiful act of grace. I think, too, as I watched Dave's mom with Dave's stepmom, I was always curious as I was observing because, ooh, that was a tricky thing for your mom, and she never was negative in front of me. She never said one negative thing about your stepmom.

No, she didn't even say a negative thing about my dad, who left with his girlfriend. Oh, you talk about a picture of grace. It would have been so easy to judge that situation, to use harsh words, and we would have all followed along with your mom, but she gave so much grace. You know, another word for grace is God's kindness. And Romans 2, verse 4 tells us that it's the kindness of God that motivates us towards change, towards repentance, is the word that's used there.

And just think about that for a minute. Shame may get us there a whole lot faster, right, Anne? That's a parenting strategy that works, and that's why we should avoid it, because it will get a change of behavior in your child, but it will not last. It will be short-lived, and they will come to resent it later, but kindness is something that when you experience somebody else's kindness, whether it's a stepmother towards a biological mother or vice versa or a former spouse or whatever the case may be, when you have kindness for them, over time, that softens their heart.

It has to. If they can reflect on what you're doing and who you are in any capacity at all, they're like, boy, I don't deserve this, but they're giving it anyway. And it's just a beautiful thing to receive that kindness. That's what ultimately motivates us towards wanting to be better people, towards wanting to make changes in our own heart, in our own life, in ways that are good and right and fair for both parties. And certainly that's the case with God. What ultimately makes us want to be His disciples is when we see just how incredible that kindness has been on us.

So again, when we turn around and offer that to somebody else, then it is highly motivating at a depth that it's not easy to overcome. Hey Ron, one of the things Dane talked about, and Anne actually, in our last program with Dane, talked about responding to your child rather than reacting. And when you respond, there's a chance for grace to be part of your response. When you react, it's usually angry, flippant. You just don't take that moment. Is it harder in a blended family to respond with kindness to a child that's not my biological child, or is it the same?

This is a great question. And what I will tell you, from listening to parents through the years in all kinds of family situations and circumstances, I think it cuts both ways, to be honest. Have you ever noticed, if you just happen to be around one of your neighbor's kids and they do something really disrespectful, you can sort of chuckle at it.

Like, ooh, wow, glad that's not my kid. I mean, you're a little emotionally detached from it because it is not your child, and therefore you can be more objective and less reactive. Now, a lot of step-parents, they come in and they're far less reactive than the biological parent is to the child's misbehavior because they're a little detached from it.

But then it can cut the other way. For some step-parents, that disrespect feels like, oh, my goodness, there's no way I'm ever getting in. I'm still an outsider and I'm stuck here because you won't show me any kindness and you won't bring me in.

And look at that disrespect. And it feels really personal. It feels like a deep rejection when that child misbehaves or has an attitude towards you. And so for that person, their reactivity goes up. So I think it depends on the person, the circumstances.

In any case, whether you're the step-parent, the biological parent, we all want to have more. You said this really well, Ann, in the conversation that you guys had with Dane. You talked about how in the past when your kids would misbehave that there was a reactivity in you that you didn't necessarily like. You were sort of embarrassed by their behavior. You were sort of fearful of what is going to lead to in them. Yeah, those are the things that make us kind of get a little loony as parents.

I can certainly testify to that. And I'm not now leading with a grace-filled heart. I'm not now, as Dane talked about, wrapping my child in this moment in I love you, this changes nothing, you're still my child. Now let's talk about your behavior, separating their worth and their value to you from the actual behavior and the consequences that may have to follow.

Those are two different things. It's so hard to lead with grace when you're reactive on the inside. And I think that's something all of us as parents have to work on a little bit. Do you guys, looking back, do you have a sense of those moments when you really got reactive as a parent? What was setting you off?

Do you know what that was? Mine was generally fear. Like, deep down, the deeper issue was fear as we talk about grace.

So if their behavior, let's say somebody partied and they went out and they were drinking and I found out about it. And my response was not great. I think the first time it happened, I was great. Like, oh, what's going on? I'm going to give you grace. And I think this is very typical. At first, we're going to give you grace. But if this continues or happens again, well now, now I'm not going to give you grace. I can so relate to that. Like, now I feel more desperate.

Yes. And the fear, you're exactly right. The fear is if we don't nip this in the bud right now, then this is a lifestyle. You're moving further away from the Lord. You're moving into territory that's unhealthy.

I've already got them in rehab, Ron. That's where I've gone. That's right.

In your head, you're already down the road. Yes. I totally agree with that. So at that point, we are fear-driven parents, not grace-driven.

Like, that is totally real. I think the other one is embarrassment. Oh, yeah. That's what I was going to say.

I'm going to say right now, I'm embarrassed to say what I'm about to say. Especially when my kids were young and they misbehaved in front of other people. Oh, yeah. I totally took that as a commentary on me and my parenting. Right. Like, I made that about me, not about this child who's got a bad attitude right now.

Because I would judge other parents. That's why. There you go. Okay, so we're getting down to the brass step. This is what moves us away from a grace parenting moment.

When we're wrapped up in fear and our own anxiety about ourselves, we get embarrassed. Now, all of a sudden, I've got to shut this down and shut it down fast. This kid's not going to get away with that. I'm going to take charge and control and do something.

Like, no, I'm not stopping long enough to go, huh. I wonder what's going on with my kid. I wonder what's behind this. I know who they are. This is not who they are.

But in this moment, I don't like who they are. But I wonder what's going on. Okay, next question, Ron. How do you lead with some affirmation here, acknowledging you're still my child.

I still love you. And then comes the but. But we don't act this way. Let's talk, and let's deal with this, and here's a consequence.

Like, all of that can come. But if we don't connect before we correct, then all of a sudden, we're undoing ourselves in the moment. And we're not sending a message of grace. We're sending a harsh message of judgment. And performance. Our kids become performance-oriented. You're as good as your performance.

Yes. Yeah, I know one of our sons who preaches regularly has said, and I'm proud to be able to say, I heard this from my son. He has said, any decision made in fear is a bad decision. Now, obviously, if you're in danger and you're fearful, you're going to make decisions that may be good decisions. I'm removing myself from a very dangerous. But if you're making a fear-based decision as a parent, that's where you want to stop, not react, and go, okay, why am I so afraid? And you can flip that to a grace-based decision. It's going to be a lot better outcome. This is true for all of us.

But let's think about a single parent, for example, or a step-family situation where a parent and single parent sees their child misbehave, and it's like, oh, no, it's all on me. I don't know what to do. Oh, yeah.

Yeah. Or like Ann said, I've already responded to this once or twice, and now I'm feeling even more desperate about the situation. I don't know what to do. So my fear has just shot straight to the sky. In a blended family, sometimes that fear takes the form of if I, as the biological parent, don't get this under control, my spouse, the step-parent, is going to come at me again about my kid or is going to come at my kid again. And there's going to be conflict between my child and my spouse. And then our family is not coming together because it's being pushed apart by conflict. And so you go from one to a hundred in a nanosecond, and now we're reacting to a hundred, like you said earlier, something off into the future that is not even reality yet. But you're acting as if it is reality.

And so guess what? When you're reacting to that, even though it's not here, you're really not in charge of you in that moment. Now, I've done this like a thousand times as a dad.

I think we all do it. I think the reminder here for all of us in this conversation is, okay, if we can find a way to pause, I mean, that's the discipline here. If I can pause my reactivity just enough to slow down and go, okay, and this is a weird thought right in this moment, but God has been really patient with me.

That's part of His grace. Super, super long suffering with Ron. Boy, God has just, and He keeps pursuing me. All right, take a deep breath, calm down.

All right, let me be patient in this moment. Let me try to put on my head again and start thinking, how do I react, or excuse me, how do I respond instead of just reacting out of fear? You guys, do you remember when He used the word about being invincible? When we understand God's grace, we walk in His supernatural love and unconditional love, we become invincible.

And I remember just sitting on that. We were continuing the interview, but I couldn't get that out of my head thinking, what would that be like to be free? Not worried about what other people are thinking, not worried about the future of what's going to happen because God's already in it. He's already with me.

He already loves me. But that struck me of like, oh, there's such a freedom. Even with our kids, our parenting, and taking that breath and reminding of ourselves like, oh, He loves me, His grace is enough, His love is always for me. He's always working on my behalf and on the behalf of our family. That's reassuring.

Wasn't that good? Oh, my goodness. It reminded me, guys, can I take you on this little survey real quick of a few letters that Paul wrote? Just want to remind you of what Paul says to these believers, these various people that he's writing to in the New Testament.

And they're people with very undisciplined, messed up lives in some cases. And yet, he starts his letters. Ready for this? Romans chapter one. To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He will two chapters later remind them that they've all sinned and are worthy of death. That's Romans.

How about this one? Let's jump right into another of his letters, 1 Corinthians chapter one. He starts his letter, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He will go on and talk to these people about, man, they've got priorities within the church, and they're putting the poor people down and the rich people up, and they're not treating one another with kindness and love for one another. And there's all kinds of messed up things. And in his second letter to the same people, he's going to say, you got all kinds of sin going on in the church. You guys got to stop some of this.

These are the same people. He says, grace and peace is yours. How about this letter? Galatians chapter one, grace to you and peace from the God of our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father to whom all the glory forever and ever be. Galatians, he's going to go on and talk about the fruit of the Spirit, but he's also going to talk about some really bad stuff that they needed to stop doing in the verses just preceding and after the fruit of the Spirit. These are people who are far from perfect.

Here's another one. Ephesians chapter one, to all the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Jesus Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Okay, you get the point? When we are in Christ, grace and peace is ours, even though there may be serious things in our lives that need changing, there may be behaviors that are wrong and attitudes that are theology that's really messed up and misguided. Even though those things can be true about us, that goes to show us how incredible grace is. It is not based on our performance. It is not based on what we deserve.

It is based on who God is. And in that, in that, we can rest, we can have confidence, we can feel invincible. You know, when Dane first used that word, invincible, it sounds arrogant. You know, I'm invincible. It's like something an athlete would say before he walks into the ring, but it's not arrogance at all, it's confidence in Christ. I'm not invincible in me.

I'm invincible because that Christ lives in me. And again, I don't walk into a room arrogant. I don't walk into my marriage or parenting arrogant. I walk in humble, but confident there is a Christ in me that will overflow through me.

That's a confidence we all want to live with. And it's amazing to think, how do we get that confidence? Through grace. There's no other way.

You don't get it through earning it, working for it. You humbly receive it and then you walk it out with strength. And it is through the gospel. It is the gospel.

You're receiving that and embracing it and resting in it. Yeah, that's so good. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. Ron's got one more parenting application here in just a minute. But first, we would love to give you a book called Surprised by Jesus, Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels. It's by author and pastor Dane Ortlund, who was our guest earlier this week, and he kind of shocked all of us by what he had to say about God's grace. We'd love to send you two copies as our thanks when you partner financially with us at FamilyLifeToday.com. That's one copy for you and one to give away. You can get your copies when you give at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329.

That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And if you enjoyed listening to Ron today, you won't want to miss the 2024 Love Like You Mean It Marriage Cruise, where he will be one of our speakers. Our biggest sale is happening right now for the cruise. You can join us next February in the Caribbean with many of your favorite Christian speakers and artists. For a romantic week, you will not forget. I've been on this cruise before.

It's absolutely incredible, especially if you like ice cream cones whenever you want them. You can learn more at FamilyLifeToday.com. All right, here's Ron with a word of encouragement for moms and dads.

Let me give you one more parenting application of what you just said, Dave. I've said for years, self-esteem is a really good concept. It's kind of nice, you know, to have a good opinion of yourself, to have good self-esteem. But what is so much better is God-esteem. Yeah.

I know who I am because of what God has done in me, through me, because of Christ, for me. That, that gives me that invincibility. Now, think about parenting. When we, with our kids, come to them in a calm parenting moment, say, I'm sorry, you can't act that way. We're going to have to deal with this. There's going to be some pretty serious consequence for what you just did. But know this, it doesn't change an ounce of how much I love you or care for you and how big you are in my heart.

I am your greatest fan and I will always be your greatest fan. Now come over here, we're going to have to deal with this. Now see, that's parent-esteem, that's God-esteem passed down to our child in a moment of misbehavior. And we make it exceedingly clear that who you are to me has nothing to do with what you've just done.

Because that's what God gives us and that's what we can pass on to them. Thanks, Ron, for being with us. Always good to be here. You know, as a spouse, do you ever feel like just nothing is working? Every step you take feels insufficient. Yeah, I've been there too. I really have. So make sure you join us tomorrow where Dave and Ann are joined by the president of Family Life, David Robbins, and his wife, Meg, to talk about the grace God gives in our marriages. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. family life today is a production of family life accrue ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-09 06:38:09 / 2023-03-09 06:51:15 / 13

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