Life Beyond the Brady Bunch
It was a regular weekday morning. I’d just finished running the carpool and was mentally going over my holiday to-do list. Suddenly, my thoughts became negative. We aren’t all going to be together for the holidays—what kind of family is that? Who are we, anyway? In a newly blended family, even something as simple as sending Christmas cards can become a complicated issue. How should we print our names on the card? We aren’t just “The Alsdorf Family,” because my sons have different last names. And if we all have different last names, doesn’t that prove we aren’t a real family? The truth was, we didn’t feel like a “real” family yet—not in name, not in tradition, and not even in photographs. What were we thinking, trying to cram a picture-perfect life into a broken frame?
Maybe you can relate. What once started out with fresh hope and eager promises can quickly spiral into the exhausting complexities of hurt feelings, custody battles, and children who don’t know which parent to be loyal to. While adults are trying to “begin again,” children are suffering from hurts so deep they can’t even articulate them. And that’s a very common reality none of us ever saw on The Brady Bunch!
The ideals I grew up with did not prepare me for living in a blended family, where differences are magnified, hurts are multiplied, and the idea of what’s fair or “normal” more often than not gets thrown out the window! In real life, there’s no TV producer to make sure every conflict is neatly resolved, and there are no rehearsals or retakes.
Before becoming a modern-day Brady Bunch, we all had high hopes. But the reality was that we brought to the family varying backgrounds and traditions. We had different rules, different habits—even different dinner menus! And the holidays brought us face-to-face with another common reality: we felt like foreigners who had been transported to an alien country, whose hearts yearned to go back to our homeland and the familiarity of our own “culture” and traditions. But we had made a commitment to this new life, and since there was no going back, we had to learn to thrive in our “new normal.”
High Hopes Meet Real Life
Being a Christian in a blended family doesn’t protect you from the difficulty of adjustment or the pain that can come with it. What once feels like a gift of hope often gets clouded by the challenging details of a new family dynamic. But being a Christ-follower makes all the difference, because you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. In a blended family, love must be learned, and the Holy Spirit can be your teacher. When you choose, day by day, to offer each member of your family His compassion and encouragement—even if certain relationships are harder than others—you choose to cultivate new hope in your home.
But that requires a choice on our part. Though the Lord offers hope freely, we must choose to receive it, live in it, breathe in its fragrance, and walk in its grace. God gives us second, third, and forth chances. His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23). He never changes; we are the ones who must adjust, as He’s called us to a life of holiness. For me, the more difficult aspects of our blended family have been a crucible of personal change. Any situation that forces us to look at our selfishness and confront our attitudes and expectations is one that has enormous spiritual value attached to it. And I’ve found my hope sustained as I take encouragement with each opportunity to confront my self-life through more painful seasons—isn’t it in these times that God becomes more real to us?