blood & biology

I’ve been struggling for sometime now to start writing about the journey I am calling “from single to step-mom.” Almost a year ago now, in September of 2017, I married my husband, who had been full-custody single dad for about 4 years before I met him.

I’ve been struggling because I don’t know where to start. Does my journey begin on our wedding day? When I first started dating a single dad? When I first met my future step-daughter? 

Today, I started reading the the Gospel of Mark. I keep hearing that God will speak to me if I open up His Word on Sunday mornings and nod my head in agreement, but then on all the days in between I don’t stop to listen. So today, while my step-daughter slept in, I had my pancakes and espresso with the Gospel of Mark.

And it was in the pages of this action-packed account of the life of Jesus that I found where my story begins. (Specifically in Mark 3:20-34.)

Naive yet well-meaning words. I spouted a lot of these at the beginning of my relationship with Kevin. I said things that I meant with all of my heart but remained ignorant of what these words meant in reality. I was not prepared for the implicit emotional sacrifice of what I was saying:

God adopted us as our own! So there’s actually something very beautiful in loving a child as my own, without a biological connection. It will be really good for her. She needs a mom. There’s something very biblical about step-parenting!

It were words like these I later ate in the days, weeks, and months to follow, during which I legitimately questioned what I had done.

So back to where my story begins. 

In the words of the gospel-writer Mark, according to the New International Version of things:

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

(Mark 3:31-34, NIV)

After reading these words, I stopped. (I had already read the first three chapters of the book anyway.) For the first time in reading this passage, I heard Jesus, who is God in the flesh, creator and sustainer of all things, my Lord and Savior, reject the physical and biological bond of blood.

This is so incredibly socially unacceptable, especially in the patriarchal word He was living in. What was Jesus thinking?

I believe he was thinking beyond the definition of what we sometimes limit family to be, of what society limits family to be. Ultimately, I believe He was redefining the standard for families. 

I’m not finished here. This is by no means the final conclusion of the matter. In fact, my exploration of what Jesus wants to teach me about family has only just begun. But the exciting thing is that I have answered His calling on my life to move from single to step-mom, and now He is showing me the way, a road map known as His Word, almost a year a later; because I’ve finally stopped to listen.

I’m going to close this debut “from single to step-mom” piece with some thoughts from the book I just finished reading, Blended, a compilation of essays on the step-family experience:

In my family, we don’t have children who are reared in one household by their two biological parents. It’s just not the way we do things. So we learn as we go. We make mistakes, and try to imagine what it’s like to stand in each other’s shoes. New commitments are fragile, exciting, terrifying. Old bonds are complicated. And as our love for each other flows on in all its changing forms – easy and tense – we grow up. And that’s the goal with all of this, isn’t it? Growing up and learning to see and accept our families for what they are rather than getting stuck in or individual and preconceived ideas about what “family” should be like. Your family “should” be just as it is – ever changing and delicious.

-Ariel Gore, foreword

At the end of the day, blood and biology end up having very little to do with what makes a family. Families all over the world encounter this reality in so many different ways.

It’s the reality I now wrestle with in my journey from single to step-mom.