There’s something about having children of your own that causes you to carefully analyze your own upbringing. Or maybe taking off the rose-colored glasses is part of finally becoming your own human – an adult of your own, leading your own family.
To surgically remove the ingrown glasses and give yourself the allowance to see things as they are, not as you wish they could be. To have the courage to undergo this painful surgery without the support of emotional anesthetic. A second birth of sorts, because pain delivers life.
This came for me when I was thirty.
I had two little girls, and had just found out about our third. And suddenly, I saw. My parents weren’t great.
Devastation. Free-falling from a false reality that functioned as heart armor. The surgery had just begun, unwelcome.
I was ill-equipped to undergo the procedure, but that inadequacy was eclipsed by my realization that I was ill-equipped for parenthood itself.
The trajectory of my family through generations was the missile I was now holding, about to detonate in my own house. Moms, sisters, attachment. I come from a long line of that not being done well.
My mom confessed to me on the phone a while ago that she knew her and dad fell short in raising my sister and I. It’s true. The atmosphere in my home was far from ideal.
Despite apologies, these short-comings created within my character a variety of coping mechanisms. Deficiencies in relationship. In connection. In perspective. In truth. In defense. It has affected every single relationship I’ve ever had. And I don’t believe I’m yet aware of all the ways I do life with a limp. Healing from pain is a process.
It has been discovered that addiction isn’t genetic; there is nothing in the genome sequence that passes from parent to child to guarantee they will, as well, succumb to addiction. It is, however, the behavior. It’s how the parent interacted with the child that will drive him or her to artificially replace the chemicals they missed out on. Dopamine. Serotonin. Love. Belonging.
How a parent behaves with and around his or her children literally changes their brain structure, making it either deficient or whole. It is the same with every relational dysfunction consistently modeled to us. Lack of security begets lack of security.
So am I stuck in the behavior patterns laid out for generations before me? Is my inheritance to perpetuate relational pain?
Another truth has to be this: Jesus is enough.
Family legacies begotten in Eve’s garden submit and bow down to the kind and careful surgeon. And further, engaging with the pain of my family the generations before will equip me to be enough for my own girls, my own family.
Two truths, diametrically opposed: I am hurt. Jesus transforms.
Starting with my girls right now, my admission of pain has ushered in a new trajectory. I will be the crux in the family line that allows Jesus to stomp on the head of the serpent. My submission to Divine Love will change the family story for my girls.
Love begets love.
Twelve years ago I was a college student in the town where my great-aunt and uncle lived. They invited me over to make lefse – our Norwegian Christmas tradition. I went into their basement on a quick errand, though the heaviness of the moment made time stand still. Every wall was covered with portraits. Our family. Our past.
I felt the weight of each one of those lives in every generation. And I felt a heavenly promise sink in to my soul that each facet of goodness those lives stewarded was, by right, mine. My inheritance.
At the time I didn’t understand the significance; I was still in denial about the dysfunction I was raised on.
The dysfunction that I am so adept at transmitting to my own children. Can I be different enough that their wounds from childhood will not mirror my own?
Sometimes when I hear my girls fighting, or I see the look of pain in their big blue eyes after I’ve said something hurtful and inappropriate, I feel undone. Crushed. My internal agony will become theirs. No realization I’ve had or prayer I’ve uttered can change the trajectory of stubborn generational pain. I’ve failed.
I am not enough.
But then I see I have a choice. Do I believe Jesus when he says ‘It is finished’, or do I let the serpent sneak out from under the heel to inflict another generation?
Who holds the authority in my heart?
My parents weren’t so great, but at the same time they were. They knew their deficiencies, and they asked God to make up the difference. They trusted that whatever damage they had done to us, on account of the damage that had been done to them, could be undone through Jesus. They’ve told me that. They’ve apologized for all their short-comings.
I’m now working out the forgiveness onto my children by allowing my thought and behavior patterns to be undone by Jesus.
Being the generation where all manner of evil screeches to a halt and is commanded to dissolve is excruciating. Transformation is utterly exhausting.
It has not been easy to learn and simultaneously teach a new way to be. But I am not trapped by the patterns of my ancestor’s mistakes. I’m not stuck in helpless submission to generational pain. I have an inheritance that is delightful from my God who is good (Psalm 16:2, 6).
I choose to hold on to what I have so that no one will take my crown. I will be among those who overcome and will be made a pillar in the temple of my God (Revelation 3:11-12).
God’s plan for us is to bless, for my daughters to be pillars carved to adorn the palace (Psalm 144:12). Beauty, as well as strength. Structure. Cornerstones for the generations who come after.
I have hands full of promises and a heart full of hope. My wounds will heal into scars that cannot perpetuate pain.
I, myself, am not enough, but Jesus more than makes up the difference. Much like my parents said.
I will be the generation that breaks the family curse of bitter and insufficient relationship. My girls and I will be together be pillars in the new lineage together. A new story of beauty as well as strength, love as well as belonging.
In the name of Jesus and by the will of the Father, a family imperfect, but altogether whole.