I've thought a lot about family this year. I think that's inevitable when you lose a close family member.
At my dad's funeral, I got to see a lot of family I hadn't seen since I was a teenager. They shared stories of their past, stories about my dad, and stories about relationships. I felt a closeness to that side of my family that I hadn't before felt; a yearning to connect with them, to not let those stories die, and to make new stories with them.
Since then, as we've been visiting with my aunt and uncle who have been working on executing my father's will; selling his things, emptying his house, and closing out his life on earth, we've had a chance to hear more stories and connect with them on a deeper level. It was through that time together that we were given copies of documents showing my great-grandparents' arrival into the United States from Italy. I was able to hold their actual marriage license in my hand, and learn about more about who they were as people.
My great-grandfather passed away when my grandfather was just a boy. Despite having quite a few siblings, my grandfather never really had a father. I don't know all the details of his upbringing or if there was another father figure that stepped into his life, but I can imagine that growing up without a father has a profound affect on your ability to be a father. So my dad was raised by a man with no father; a man who was trying to figure out what it meant to parent two boys with no real frame of reference for how to do that.
I was raised by a man whose father didn't have a father.
That domino effect has made it's way down 4 generations now. And now here I am, the grandchild of a father-less child, trying to raise a son.
I could stop here and talk about how the baggage in my life is their fault. I could blame my hurts and hang-ups on their inability to overcome that sin in their lives. I could sit back and tell my family that they are just going to have to deal with who I am because that's who I am.
But that doesn't have to be my story. That's not the story I want told at my funeral. That's not the burden I want my son to bare.
You see, while all of the 'stuff' from our past affects who we are in the present, it doesn't define who we will be in the future, or the legacy we will leave our families.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
We have a responsibility to deal with the dark corners of our lives; to shine a light into them and clean them out so that our children, and their children are not left with the burden of our sins.
Jesus came to draw a line in the sand. Before him, the world was one way. After him, the world was drastically changed. Through him, we have the ability to put an end to the domino affect of our family history.
Learn from your family. Share their stories. Take what's good and pass it on. But do not allow yourself to be trapped by their burdens. You have been made new through the blood of Jesus. Change starts with you.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
You are not your father or your mother.
Accept the gift God has offered to you.
Imagine the legacy you want to leave.
Deal with your baggage.
Change the course of your family history.
Give God the glory.