I was managing a small chiropractic office and the doctor I worked for was talented and nice but also eccentric and quite a talker! The only two employees in the small home based practice, we chatted all day between patients. With his kids running in and out, family was a common topic of conversation. At the time I was expecting my second daughter, the first child that my husband and I would share biologically.
One day during a lull while discussing my growing brood the doc asked, “So, how does your husband feel about the new baby on the way?” I smiled and responded that naturally, we’re both excited and a little nervous. “Our oldest is in 3rd grade already,” I said. “It’s like we’re starting over!” He laughed in sympathy, then said “This will be a whole new adventure for him though since this is his first child.”
I mentioned that technically that was true but reminded him that he had raised my daughter alongside me since she was a toddler. My husband knew much of what raising a little girl was like. But, he remained unconvinced and went on to say that my husband would feel much different about our new daughter because she was truly his. He said in not so many words that my husband couldn’t love his step daughter as much as his biological daughter. My heart sank into the computer chair as I realized that some people would never see us as a real family.
I stewed in a silent anger for the rest of the day. My husband had been around as long as she could remember. He married me. He took care of us financially. He was her dad in the day to day, from helping with homework to kissing her goodnight. He treats her like his own and would never love her any less. Why did others have to question what we never did? It was frustrating to feel so misunderstood.
Though some people hold these type of ignorant opinions of step-parents and perhaps even adoptive parents, it’s evident that God loves families, even unconventional types! Some feel that Joseph was chosen simply to fulfill a familial societal expectation as husband of Mary. Indeed, he did but the wisdom revealed to us through this great saint who was so close to the Lord makes it obvious that he was more than just a stand-in! God sends us a powerful message about love through the inclusion of Joseph and this interesting dynamic in the context of the Holy Family.
He Loved Truly-
Joseph is known in the Church as the foster father of Jesus and in a way he was like, the most important “step-parent” of all time! He reinforces the idea of relating through the spirit, in a way that goes deeper than mere genetic bonds.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. -John 1:12-13
All who believe are adopted children of God and surely we can trust in the validity of his love! We are gathered together and become a spiritual family regardless of our biological ties. This idea is so relevant, especially today when broken homes and divorced or absent parents are more common.
Through St. Joseph, God sends a message of hope to the abundance of blended families created as a result. If we place our households in the hands of God he will restore and bless us! As for my husband, he can’t help but treasure my daughter like Joseph undoubtedly couldn’t help but adore the child Jesus.
He Was Wanted-
Though he is believed to have passed away before Jesus began his ministry, Joseph played an integral role in the formative early years of the Savior. He was the first person Mary ever shared Jesus with, placing in his arms the infant King in swaddling clothes. He was indeed extraordinarily blessed to love, serve, and live in their daily presence. Think about it. Jesus is Lord. Its not as if he really required an earthly paternal figure to accomplish the will of his Father in Heaven. God’s involvement of Joseph speaks to the importance of the role of fathers in the family unit. He sets a fatherly standard as a dedicated provider, protector and guide. I feel so blessed that my husband was able to step in and “foster” my daughter in a similar way and demonstrate the functions of a devoted father.
We hear a lot about Mary’s incredibly faithful “yes” to God but, Joseph had a “fiat” of his own. Like at the Annunciation, God used angelic petition to call upon Joseph. The gospel of Matthew explains that when Mary was found to be with child
…her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;….When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife…and he called his name Jesus. -Matthew 1:19-25
Joseph reveals the might of his faith by believing what was told to him and obeying. He followed the example of Mary’s perfect submission to the will of God by boldly saying “yes”!
In biblical times being pregnant out of wedlock was not only frowned upon, but a potentially deadly offense. God knew this risk and appointed Joseph as a loving guardian and faithful protector. He was sent to safeguard Mary and the Light of the World enshrined in her womb. He stood by Mary as her doting husband and assuredly cherished her as any partner should.
I imagine him strapping her sandals like my husband laced my sneakers when I was expecting and offering his arm to balance her as she walked beside him. I imagine Joseph helping the heavily pregnant Mother of God on to a donkey’s back so he could guide them to Egypt to escape King Herod’s decree as instructed. I’m certainly not Mary and we might not be fleeing a brutal king but God commissioned my husband in a similar way. God appointed him as a safe haven for us and petitioned him in his heart to love my child as his own.
How amazing to think of the humanity of God. Jesus was a child and like any kid he received education by his parents as he grew in age and stature. Joseph was a carpenter and taught Jesus his trade, as was typical for a fathers of the time to do. He no doubt provided for the family in this way and was identified in society by his profession. When Jesus returns to Nazareth to begin his ministry the people marvel at his teaching saying,
…Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? -Matthew 13:54-55
The community remembered Joseph as the man of the house and Jesus as “son of the carpenter”. People might remember my oldest as “daughter of the postman”. My husband refers to her as “daughter” not “step daughter”. We have an established family unit. In our home and the eyes of our community she is recognized as part of his household.
When Joseph married Mary he formally became legal guardian and father of Jesus. This was legitimate enough in the eyes of God and ancient Israel for Jesus to inherit Joseph’s Davidic lineage as accounted in the gospels. Similarly when my husband married me, he gained some rights as step-parent. For example, she was eligible to be covered under his health insurance and claimed as a dependent.
Also, my daughter was accepted without hesitation by my husband’s side of the family. She has always been treated as any other grand-child, niece, or cousin. Children are greatly impacted by their daily interactions and the environments they grow up in, and although she is not his biologically, my daughter has picked up some of my husbands quirks, humor and habits over the years. I wonder if Jesus acquired any of Joseph’s mannerisms?
On the drive home from the office that night I called my husband and huffily recounted the disheartening conversation. Though I already knew, he reassured me that his love was true and unconditional. He encouraged me to forgive my old boss for his presumptuous comment knowing that he doesn’t understand or witness their unbreakable bond first hand.
My oldest daughter and her baby brother share a beautiful recessive feature in the blue and yellow color of their eyes. This was a surprise to me as my middle girl’s eyes are a warm chestnut brown and I expected that dominant gene to give him the same dark features. How merciful of God to give my oldest and youngest that extra connection by letting them share that special trait! Although our kids are half-siblings we never refer to them that way because they are fully loved by one another.
It’s a fact that misconceptions of blended families exist. Some will never view us collectively as a true family no matter how far from the truth that may be but, we take heart in the example of Joseph and the Holy Family. My husband’s love for his cherished daughter is not a second-hand affection but, a self-sacrificing and wholehearted “yes” to love. Let us live and love not by the flesh alone, but by the spirit as St. Joseph did!
Do you have or come from a blended family? Did you ever feel judged for it? Let’s discuss in the comments!