On Step-Fathering

Traditionally, the second week of the Christmas season focuses on ‘the holy family’—Jesus with Mary and Joseph.  If there is a patron saint of step-dads, it should certainly be Joseph.  He did the holy work of fathering another guy’s kid.  Joseph was not the father who gave little Jesus his origin or his destiny.  I like to think he understood that it was important that he not impose his own agenda on this boy he was tasked with raising.

That makes me think of how I raise my sons.  I am their biological father, so it’s not the same, but it’s not entirely different, either.  I am not their ultimate Father.  My boys do not belong to me in the way they belong to Father.  I have begotten them, but I have not in any sense created them.  My status as ‘Dad’ to them is about stewardship rather than ownership.  Father has granted me the opportunity to ‘play dad’ to two of HIS beloved sons.

Step-fathering requires a certain restraint that comes from knowing ‘This kid is not MINE, and I must not treat him as such.’  As I grow to identify more with Joseph, I am learning to adopt that mantra as my own.

As spiritual stepfather to my biological sons, it is not my place to have an agenda for them.  Whatever my unfulfilled dreams are, woe to me if I foist them onto my spiritual stepsons.  Their destiny does not belong to me, not even a little.  Their True Father has his own agenda for them, an agenda for their glorious freedom and joy, an agenda He has sworn to accomplish.

Thank you, Father, for giving me to share in your work of parenting your sons.  Help my lingering foolishness not to get in the way too much.

~ John Stonecypher

3 comments so far

  1. Pastor Jonathan on

    Great insight John!

  2. Ted Johnston on

    Well said John. I’m reminded of the fine film, The Nativity Story. It has a wonderful scene in which Joseph and Mary discuss their fears about parenting the promised Messiah. Both the step-father (Joseph) and the biological mother (Mary) have understandable reservations. Wouldn’t we all!

    As you rightly note, all parents (natural or otherwise) should approach the task of parenting with humility and a certain confidence, knowing that their children, just like themselves, are children of the Heavenly Father.

    I like how Andrew Root approaches this issue in his book on youth ministry titled, “Relationships Unfiltered.” He notes that youth ministers (and I would add, like parents)are called to co-minister with the ultimate minister (or in our case, the ultimate parent, Jesus).

    This co-ministry is best viewed (per Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s analogy) as a “place sharing” – our sharing in the the relationship (the “place”) that Jesus has with each child or teen (and, indeed, with every human being). Our calling is to participate with Jesus, and in participating to yield to what he is doing – to his “agenda”, if you will.

    And Jesus’ agenda always respects and loves the person – makes room for them to be all they are uniquely created (by and in Jesus) to be, and no other.

    Only Jesus has the genius, patience and power to pull that off! How blessed we are to share in his relating with others. Jesus, please give us your eyes to see and your faith to respond!

  3. Michael William Smith on

    Great post! Great comment Mr. Johnston! I am in awe of seeing the great King work through you vessels of mercy! I love it!


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