Dr. Wall shares an example of a positive stepfamily role model. We usually hear negative stories about stepfamilies. Here’s one that can serve as an inspiration to us all. Dr. Wall posts his tribute to his Uncle Don that he gave at Dr. Donald Erickson’s funeral in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 6 2005.
Uncle Don, or “Doc” as he was affectionately known even to his nieces and nephews, will be missed. You’d be hard pressed to find a better uncle. Generous, faithful, studious, successful, driven, expectant, a gracious host. Not what most people experience with their uncles. In our society Uncles don’t have a very good reputation. And if that uncle is removed a bit due to a stepfamily situation, the reputation goes even further south. The alcoholic uncle, the obnoxious uncle, our uncle the felon. Uncles can be the source of untold hurt in our culture. Thousands are the innocent children who have been sexually abused by uncles. Countless others have been introduced as teenagers to things they should never have been introduced to.
And the reputation of uncles goes beyond our present day. Imagine in Biblical times Joseph’s son’s, Ephraim and Manasseh freaking out any time they saw their step-uncle Judah, who sold their dad, his half-brother, into slavery.
Step families haven’t fared so well either. In my practice as a marriage and family therapist I see animosity and resentments in stepfamilies that makes blood boil. Step families by definition are not fair. Coalitions along bloodlines are common. Fighting, hurt, anger flow as sides are chosen. Stepfamilies have always been with us. In biblical times they were borne of necessity. Over the millennia they were born due to death. In the last forty years they’ve been born of divorce.
Our stepfamily was born of death. Auntie Vi’s father passed away when she was a little girl. A few years later her mother married my mom’s father. Shortly after Carol and Keith came along. Fortunately, for all of their descendants, this was a model stepfamily. No family stories have come down our lines of animosities and resentments; no horror stories of abuse and neglect. Ours was a stepfamily of grace and joy, infused with God’s love.
Stepfamilies don’t have to be cruel. God’s family was a stepfamily. Jacob’s 12 sons and one daughter by 4 different mothers gave us the children of Israel. Jesus was born into a stepfamily. Joseph accepted Jesus into his family without regret and remorse. Indeed, the church is one big stepfamily, as all of us in Christ have been adopted as children into the household of God, who gives us his Spirit as a seal.
The Erickson-Woodbury-Wall clan is an example of a stepfamily that worked. Uncle Don, as the clan’s patriarch was its model. He accepted us all. He was an example to all in his faith in Christ, his belief in the providence and care of our Loving Heavenly Father. He was consistent in his approach to life. His standards and expectations were high….not insurmountable, but high, nonetheless. As a 12-year old it was sometimes hard to take. What? You want me to fill up your boat with your gas, so that I can go skiing behind your boat? How unfair is that? The distance of a few years has taught us the wisdom of his ways.
The first thing I remember him telling me is “Bing, are you going to be a dentist?” I was five years old. I had no idea. But the thought that an uncle cared enough to challenge and ask endeared him to me. In later years I’d confess to him when he’d ask me again if I wanted to be a dentist when I grew up, that I wasn’t that good in science, he’d say, “OK, then. How about a missionary? Or a pastor? You’d make a good pastor.” He coaxed me. He stimulated my thinking. He made me believe in myself and helped me see that God had his hand on his shoulder. He’d say, “What are you going to do with your life, Bing? What are you going to be?” He gave me permission to dream and to imagine a future where I made a difference. I saw a little bit of Jesus in the twinkle in his eye.
Both he and my dad introduced me to BBQ: My dad with his ribs to die for and Doc with his sirloin roasts that melted in your mouth on the fourth of July. For years he grilled on his Weber with the charcoal briquettes. A couple of years ago he paid me the ultimate compliment. His health wasn’t what it once was and I had the supreme honor of slow cooking the roast over propane gas grill for a bunch of the relies out at the lake. I made Doc a roast beef sandwich complete with my own spices and homemade BBQ sauce I’d perfected over the years. I grilled the buttered bun, sliced the roast beef thin, piled it high with some red onion. He stood by and watched the whole process, like a child in a candy store his eyes all aglow. He took notes and wrote down my dry rub recipe. He took one bite and said to me, “Bing, this is the best roast beef sandwich I’ve ever tasted. If you ever want to start a restaurant and sell these sandwiches let me know. I want to be an investor.”
Cousin Bill told me last winter after Uncle Keith’s passing, that he marveled at the faith and the legacy of our family patriarchs: Don, Keith and Fritz and their faithful wives Vivian, Virginia and Carol. They stayed faithful to each other all these years; they stayed faithful to Christ and heeded his calling in their lives. They left us an inheritance that will never pass away. The Bible says by their fruit you shall know them. We see the fruit of Christ and the love of God in their children and their children’s children.. May Uncle Don’s spirit of generosity and kindness and trust in our Heavenly Father continue to spread from generation to generation, a foundation that will never pass away.
See also Dr. Wall’s blog:
Dr. Wall explains the constant change stepfamilies experience and why this often leads to problems.
Dr. Wall goes over two important Ground Rules that help couples stay grounded. Both of them are helpful for stepfamily situations.
Cohabiting couples have real struggles. Stepfamilies have real struggles. You want trouble in your life? Try cohabiting in a stepfamily situation! YIKES! Check out these blogs by Dr. Wall on cohabitation as he explores some of the downsides.