How I found hope for step-families in Christmas

By Rebecca Townsend | Connection

Dec 22

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family.

Surely, step-parenting for Joseph had to be easier than it is now. I mean, they didn’t really have to co-parent with other people…unless you count the Almighty God.

They didn’t have to split time with another set of parents…so, it must have been a breeze!

Well, actually, they did share time with another parent.

If you don’t know the story, here’s a little background.

When Jesus was 12, he disappeared from the large group his family was traveling with on their return trip to Nazareth from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.  Mary and Joseph had been frantically searching for Jesus for three days. When they found him, he was still in the temple in Jerusalem. Can you imagine the panic? If I lost one of my step-sons for three days…oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine the panic, the guilt, and the shame…not to mention the anger from my husband and the boys’ mom – and rightfully so.

But, it was in that story when Jesus made it clear that there was a change in custody. That is when co-parenting, shared custody and moving between houses became the reality of this step-family. This is where I find connection, compassion, and hope for step-families.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary confronted Jesus. I find it interesting that Mary was the one to confront Jesus.  In biological families of origin, the father is typically the one to confront and implement the discipline for large infractions.  In a step-family, it is often a function of biological parents to discipline their children before a step-parent does. Perhaps this tells us that Joseph was functioning as many of us step-parents do – back-up coverage, the quiet position, or the support role.

Exasperated, and I’m sure a bit perturbed, Mary says something along the lines of, “What were you thinking? Why would you do this to us? We have been worried sick looking for you!”

Apparently, all parents take the behaviors and choices of their children personally.

Jesus responded, surprised they didn’t know where he was, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

I'm going to venture that none of us have fought for custody time with God.

What we begin to see is that Jesus’ time in His Father’s house increases—again that transfer of custody.  Doing the work His Father sent Him to do would mean less time with both Mary and Joseph.  I cannot imagine the pain they felt as they watched their son slip into his adult calling.  As a step-parent, I've felt that twist of heart - joyously seeing a child become independent and yet, also mourning the closeness of the relationship with someone you have raised as your own.

Sometimes, step-parents suffer silently. We are reminded often, through media, legal red tape, and unfortunately by some biological parents, that as a step-parent we are merely an accouterment, an accessory, in the lives of our step-children.

I wonder if maybe step-families should view the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with hope and optimism.

Rather than accepting the status as a faux family, step-families may wish to view Christmas as a reminder that faith, love and hope can create miracles in any situation…even those that may have a social stigma attached.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my thoughts about hope and love this holiday season.

Believe. Create. Live.

© Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC 2016

This post was originally published in December 2014.

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(1) comment

Jennifer December 22, 2016

I just love this! How very true. Christmas is especially a hard time to be in a step parent role. Recently at a Christmas concert, it was the excitement to see the birth mom and I was overlooked. My love actually has full custody of his children. I vary between welcoming the breaks we get when they visit their mom to being hurt that I am not acknowledged.
But as your blog post says, there is always hope. I assume my role and stand strong. Merry Christmas Rebecca!! Thank you for the words of hope.

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