As the story of Jesus is retold this Christmas season, perhaps it would be good to remember other "Josephs" who have graciously agreed to support and raise children that are not their own.
As Christians know, Joseph belatedly discovered that his virgin fiancee, Mary, was with child.
It is unquestionable that Joseph intended to do what other men often do - eject her from his life, which in his era meant setting her up to be shamed, shunned and possibly stoned.
We can be sure Joseph's plan was to abandon Mary because the Lord sent an angel to persuade him to stay. "Joseph, son of David," the angel said, as recorded in the Book of Matthew, "do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
Over the years, I have met many men who found themselves in a similarly gut-wrenching situation - they learned that the woman they care about is raising another man's child or is pregnant with another man's child.
Should they stay or should they go?
For some men, the discovery is a monstrous betrayal.
A Colorado military husband, for instance, was deployed to a war zone and returned nine months later to find that his wife had twins. He eventually used a DNA test to confirm that the children were not his, but after his divorce, he was still assessed for child support for the children. The wife's lover got off scot-free.
"Stop paternity fraud" has become the rallying cry for cuckolded men. Child advocates such as D.C. attorney Wal-Mart and other stores across the country.
Paternity fraud taps into a deep anger and distress men can feel when faced with a duplicitous woman. At the same time, however, I also have met many men who, when faced with this identical dilemma, considered their options, took a deep breath and became the father to a child who was not their own.
I have two dear personal friends who have done this. Years later, neither regrets his decision to fill the vacuum left by another man; to them, the one man's loss became their cherished gain.
The world of stepparenting also revolves around this kind of generous heart. Yes, many blended families are not missing any parents - remarriage simply adds new adults to a child's life. But as any stepparent knows, it is tricky to join lives that are already under way and build respect, trust and bonds of love with a child who is well past infancy.
Too often, our media focus on the boys who make babies and walk away, and ignores the men who, with full knowledge and free will, quietly shoulder the responsibility, become a partner to the mother and take the father's seat at the table.
That so many men do so without an angelic visitation speaks volumes about their characters, and to these and other unsung heroes of the home, we offer praise and gratitude this holiday season.
E-mail Cheryl Wetzstein.
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor. Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
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