Where You’ve Come From: Why it’s More Important than You Think - I Do Every Day - September 3

Where you’ve come from: Why it’s more important than you think

By Janel Breitenstein

If you were to draw your family tree not just of people, but of the way they lived … what would it look like?

This is actually a thing. Maybe you’ve heard of a genogram: a graphic representation of a family tree displaying detailed information on relationships between them. It gives you an uncanny ability to see hereditary patterns, behaviors, even psychological issues.

You’ve heard some version of “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

But what if it applies to more than historical events?What if it applies to your marriage? Your family?

See, our family subcultures determine our “normal.” But just like someone entering Alcoholics Anonymous, to step out of problematic cycles, the first step is to realize and admit we have a problem. 

We can and should still honor our families. But that doesn’t involve lying, including to ourselves. We need to acknowledge rather than hide the ways God hasn’t been honored in past generations—just like the Old Testament did (like Judges 2:11-15), 

Even healthy families have baggage (sometimes in a pristine, matching set!). In fact, the most sparkling families with the tidiest appearances can conceal dysfunctional and/or appearance-driven behavior.

Sometimes, people outside of our family cultures—like a spouse—find it easier to identify what’s rotten in Denmark, so to speak. Rather than be defensive about your spouse’s raised eyebrows when it comes to your extended family, have courage to discern, asking God to “see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24). 

Maybe this is part of the “division” Jesus prophesied He would create in families (Luke 12:51-53). It’s where you say, “This sin pattern stops with my generation. My marriage and family don’t have to be slaves to patterns of my past. And I’ll do the hard work to figure out why they’re repeating.”

Listen to Ken Sande talk about preserving peace with extended family members

The good stuff: I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10)

Action points: Consider creating a genogram with an online genogram tool. With a posture of humility and openness, begin the prayerful discussion with your spouse about family patterns that don’t honor God. What heart attitudes and personal idols lie beneath them? What ways do you see those same desires and temptations in your own heart?

Visit the FamilyLife® Website

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