Editor’s note: This sermon originally ran on June 20, 1998.
”Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.” – Luke 2:22
You’re not my real daddy.” These are hard, hurting words, usually delivered by a child without meaning during discipline by a stepfather. But they still stab the heart, and most stepfathers, like me, have heard them.
Stepfathers are fathers, too. Theirs is a more difficult job than natural fathering. They start with strikes against them. Sometimes, jealous fathers or grandparents tell children things that cause unnecessary friction between the child and the stepparent.
Only when differences are put aside in love can real parenting begin. Children of divorced parents really do need the father image in the home to make a functional family and create a balanced home life. This doesn’t take away love for the natural father, it just adds another authoritative figure. We don’t want our children to grow up with a dysfunctional image of home life.
Most people forget Jesus had a stepfather, too. The selection of Joseph as His Son’s stepfather was as important to God as that of His mother. This man was the person who molded Jesus’ life on Earth. He was a strong, religious figure who was part of a group of devout Jews who had successfully evangelized pagan Galilee. He made yearly trips to the people in Jerusalem for Passover.
Jesus’ religious training was important to God. Joseph communicated and taught his son carpentry that he might have a means of livelihood, but most importantly, he was a protective father. When God warned him of imminent danger to the child, Joseph left everything behind and rushed his family to another nation to protect him. Any stepfather would do the same.
I remember how quickly I responded to a late-night call when my daughter was involved in an accident and how angry and protective I became when she was punished harshly in high school for something she didn’t do. A loving parent is protective of this child. Stepparenting is never easy, but neither is any other type of parenting. It doesn’t require wealth, but it does require love. It doesn’t require religious zeal, but it does require religious guidance. You can’t make all your child’s decisions, but you can teach them to think for themselves.
It has rewards. Little things like recitals, concerts and diplomas make you proud, but it’s the big things like hugs, kisses and love that make it worthwhile.
Monica was only 4 when she made that statement, and now 30 years later, half a world separates us. On this Father’s Day, I’ll miss her terribly, and when she calls, I know I’ll still feel a need to protect her. She still has a natural father and a stepfather, but she knows now she has two “real” daddies. I think Joseph would identify with me.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers everywhere.