“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
Are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
Who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
When he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
- Psalm 127:3-5
I have two beautiful daughters who are six and ten years old.
I’ve been their daddy for 14 months.
When Cortni and I got married, I knew that I would spend my life loving her. I knew that I’d spend my life loving her daughters, who are now my daughters. But I never knew that my heart would burst in my chest every time they smile at me across the dinner table, or say, “Jesus, thank you,” when we pray before bed, or when I think about them getting married one day.
They have a special flame that melts my heart in a unique way.
But, I have to admit that the last 14 months have brought difficult moments for me.
Since getting married, Cortni and I have been through a whirlwind of lifestyle changes. Early on, we looked into the process of adoption so that the girls can legally take my last name, but we’ve both agreed that to move forward in the adoption process right now could be a little chaotic and unhealthy for our family. So we’re patiently waiting for God to give us clear direction in the decision to move forward.
This means that for the time being, I’m (legally speaking) my daughters’ step-dad.
And to be honest, I’m not too fond with the “step” before the dad.
The title itself makes me feel like less of a father. In fact, if you don’t know our family, you wouldn’t see a single trace of me in my daughters. They don’t have my DNA. I am absent from their biological makeup. They don’t have my last name. They have, however, inherited my fascination with werewolves but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
Anyways, the “step-dad” title has been a cause of insecurity for me. It’s made me wonder what people think of me. Do they think of me as less of a dad? Do my girls know that I love them just like any other good parent loves their biological children? Does my wife ever see me as less of parent?
Personally, I have no ground to base those thoughts on. They’re built solely on the sand of insecurity. I am thankful, however, that each time my insecurities cause me to sink, my heavenly Father pulls me up and sets me on the foundation of his sovereignty.
No, I’m not my daughters’ biological father, yet from before the foundations of the world, God ordained that I would be their daddy. I’m not a plan-B dad. I’m plan-A. I wasn’t God’s second option for our family. I was his first. He’s given me the gift of being daddy to two wonderful girls. And even though I wouldn’t coin myself as “a gift” to my daughters, God has given me to them as a gift, as well.
God has sovereignly called me to be my girls’ father. This is just as true for you and your children as it is for me, and should move us in three ways: In humility, in responsibility, and in enjoyment.
How God’s Sovereignty Addresses Step-Dads
1) God’s sovereignty requires humility
When Cortni and I got married, I had a lovely picture in my mind of a family of four laughing, loving, and growing in the Lord together. Honestly, I thought the transition from single guy, to husband and father would be a relatively smooth one.
2 teaspoons of daughter
1 tablespoon of mother
Add 1 tablespoon of husband/father
Bake in oven 15 minutes
Pull out of oven and enjoy your big, happy family.
(Yes, this is how I thought baking worked also.)
The changeover seemed simple to me. And though God has been abundantly gracious to us over the last 14 months, I was incredibly misinformed in my thinking.
Early on, as many selfish single guys are prone to do, I thought mostly about myself. I was wrapped up in my transition from being single to married with children. Because of that, I didn’t think much about how the transition from “James” to “Daddy” would affect my daughters. I also failed to think about how the transition would affect my wife. I thought about myself first, when I should have, as Christ commands in the Scriptures, thought about myself last.
I realize now (a little late) that one of the most profound ways I could have served my family would’ve been by understanding how difficult even a good transition can be. This requires humility.
A step-dad is not a savior.
I say that as someone whose pride has been beaten to a pulp by God’s rod of discipline.
If you think you’re a solution, you’ll find yourself to be a problem, real quick.
Yes, God, in his perfect plan has called me to be my daughters’ father, but not to step into the gap of fatherhood to “solve everything” with my presence. Rather, he called me to step into the gap of fatherhood to serve them. He’s done the same for you as well.
I want to encourage you to take time to study how Christ, God in flesh, the only Savior of the world, stepped into humanity and served you through his death. He’s filled the gap of Savior by becoming a servant. Step-dads, we fill the gap of fatherhood by becoming servants, in order to point our children to the only true Savior.
2) God’s sovereignty demands responsibility
Step-dads don’t have less responsibility as a parent because of a prefix before “dad”. Since God has called you to be the father of your children, you have the same responsibility to love them, play with them, get to know them, provide for them, and teach them, as any other parent does.
However, I would say that this requires a little more work at the beginning of your parenting than that of a biological parent who’s involved from birth.
My girls became my daughters when they were five years old and nine years old. I missed some years. On some days I feel like I’m trying to play catch-up, not only as a parent but also as a dad who wants to have a relationship with his daughters.
As a step-parent, I have plenty to learn about my daughters and it’s my responsibility, not theirs, to engage them so that our relationship can grow. I should be the conversation starter, the date initiator, and the first one to say, “I love you.” Being a father is a wonderful privilege that God has graciously given to me; one that I didn’t have 14 months ago. It’s my responsibility to create space for my daughters’ and my relationship to flourish, and trust, that as a result, God will do the flourishing.
Step-dads, pursuing your children relationally will be the key to unlocking your influence spiritually and authoritatively. In order for us to teach our children about Christ’s love, we must model that love to them. Also, we should make it easy for our children to respect us as the Scriptures say (Ephesians 6:1-2), by being parents that deserve respect, as the Scriptures also say (Ephesians 6:4).
God has sovereignly given us the joyous responsibility of pursuing, loving, and teaching our children. Let us work at it with all of our hearts.
3) God’s sovereignty creates enjoyment
Step parenting has a unique set of challenges. I’m not sure if a week has gone by in the last 14 months that I haven’t felt inadequate as a father in some way, shape or form.
But in those moments I have to remind myself to cast my burdens on to the Lord, and he will sustain me (Psalm 55:22). He carries me from grace to grace.
God hasn’t chosen me to be the father of my girls just so I can ultimately fail my family. There have been and there will be times when I do fail them, or sin against them, or try my best and fall short. But God hasn’t given me a deadline to be a perfect dad. In fact, he’s never put that burden on me, even though I tend to put it on myself.
This is where all of the challenges of being a step-dad can become enjoyments.
I have a gracious heavenly Father who is pleased with the work he is completing in me, even when I fail. As a parent, I can also be pleased with the work God is doing in my girls even when they fail. As a family, we can enjoy the short time we have on this earth together, being molded into the image of Christ. God has sovereignly given us to one another so that we would grow in grace together and show grace to one another. And in this, we can relax and enjoy God’s providence.
Step-dad, have you enjoyed being daddy to your children?
Have you played with them before you’ve had a chance to do anything else in your morning? Have you had silly “would you rather” conversations with them? Have you read to them in British accents? Have you taken them out for ice cream? Have you laughed with them after having to discipline them? Have you kissed them before bed after a button-pushing type of day? Have you thanked God for them before your head hits the pillow?
Have you enjoyed the gift of being a step-dad?
If you haven’t, start today. Make memories with them. Enjoy your children that God has given you to love.
Step dads, God builds families. Though he hasn’t built your family “traditionally”, he’s built your family intentionally. He’s decreed you as the head of your family in the eternal council of his will. He’s done so for the good of those that love him and for his glory. Be humble. Take responsibility. And enjoy it.
Side Note) A Quick Word to Wives
Wives, your husband needs to know that you’re his biggest fan as he steps into the daddy role. He needs to know that you trust him to help you raise your children. He needs to know that you’re proud of him. He needs to know that you’re there for him.
I can’t tell you how wonderful my wife has been in my 14 months of being a dad to her girls. She’s been patient with me and patient with them. She’s been a support system for me and a support system for them. She’s been my greatest ally, and our daughters’ greatest ally, also. Cortni has been the glue of our family, bonding us together as a unit.
When we said our, “I do’s” Cortni vowed herself to me, and her daughters to me as well. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for her, even though she’s only shown confidence in me. Cortni has prayed for me, cared for me, challenged me, and loved me at my worst. She’s taught me how our girls need to be loved, spoken to, and disciplined. She’s been my rock and I love her for it.