Scripture tells us that we are all new creations in Christ. While this is most certainly true, who we are is also influenced by our family of origin and the themes and family commandments that are part of our growing up years. This can affect our relationships with God and others and how we lead others.
When the Bible uses the word family, it is referring to not only our parents and siblings but also to our entire extended family for over three to four generations. This means that our families include our brothers and sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great grandparents going all the way back to the mid 1800s!
While external events that happen in our lives can greatly affect us, the fact is that our families are still the most powerful group of people to which we will ever belong. Even those who leave their home as young adults will find that they do life in a very similar way to their family of origin.
What happens in one generation will often repeat itself in the next and we might see patterns in families of abuse, teen pregnancy, poor marriages, one child running off or mistrust of authority. These family patterns are played out in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. Unfortunately as hard as we might try, we can’t just erase our past and move on as if it never happened.
An example of this principle in scripture is the family of Abraham, which we read about in Genesis. We can see that there are a few patterns that play out in each generation, for example, there is a pattern of lying: Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife, Isaac and Rebecca’s marriage was filled with lies, Jacob lied to almost everyone, and in fact, his name means “deceiver”. Lastly, ten of Jacob’s children lied to him, going so far as to fake their brother’s death in order to get rid of him.
To be emotionally healthy, we must “go back to go forward”. In Matthew 10:34-37 Jesus tells us “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.”
If we are not able to accept our family history and take a hard look at family patterns we will never be able to fully enter into who Christ has created us to be. When Tracey discovered a pattern of passive aggression in her family, she was able to take this revelation and use it to improve her conflict and communication skills and it significantly improved her relationships with friends and family.
How can you enter into the courageous work of going back to go forward? What are some family patterns you see that don’t belong in the family of God? What are some steps you can take to begin change and move forward in the future?
Today’s post was based on the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. For more information on this topic, check out chapter five.