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28 Dec '11

Dysfunctional families of origin

Posted by T.J. Addington in children, family, forgiveness, grace, marriage
At fifty five, I realize that I still am deeply impacted by my family of origin (what ever happened to growing up?). Our formative years are just that - formative and they stay with us forever. Some of us are more fortunate than others in our families of origin. Some bear great scars that still feel raw to this day. And, none of us grew up in a perfect family and my own children will deal with dysfunctions that I was responsible for. However,  there are three questions that I believe can help us see our lives in perspective.


One: What can I thank God for relative to my family of origin? Who we are today is in large part the result of our early years. My understanding of Scripture came from terribly early morning devotions, but those devotions informed my view of Scripture and of God. My love of people from all over the world came from the cross cultural experience I had growing up in Hong Kong and the amazing hospitality which my parents exhibited in welcoming all to our home. If I made a list (and it is a good idea) of the may blessings I experienced from my family of origin it would be long. 


Two: What do I need to forgive my parents for? No parents are perfect and their understanding of parenting is a factor of their generation, their spiritual place and their situation in life. I am the first to admit that my kids, Jon and Chip will need to forgive me for parenting mistakes, perhaps that I am not even aware of. Our own parenting skills are a mix of what we saw that we appreciated and what we experienced that was painful. At some point we need to forgive our parents for the painful just as our children will need to forgive us for the same. Ironically we are best suited to raise kids when our grand kids come along.


Forgiveness for the failing of our parents is critical to our own freedom and reflects our own humble evaluation of our own parenting. All of us are in need of God's grace and the grace of others. No parents did it all right. The sooner we forgive, the sooner we are able to deal with the scars we gained early in life.


Three: How do we see God's hand in our personal history? Our upbringing is a mixture of good and bad, happy and sad, levels of family dysfunction and for some, very deep wounds. However, it is an amazing thing to consider how God got us from there to here? How we can see His invisible hand in our personal history to mold us into who we have become and how he presently uses us. Only God has the ability to use both the good and bad of our past and redeem it for His perfect purposes in our present. Only He can change our human scars into divine scars usable by Him.


Ultimately we are not who we are primarily because of our parents but because of the faithfulness of God through our history. Think deeply how God has been present in your history, in your childhood, in all of the events of your life, bringing you to your present place and you will be encouraged. Whether we have much to be thankful for in our upbringing or the need to forgive much that was painful and hurting, the one constant is always the presence of a loving father who brings us to where we are today, redeeming the pain and using all of who we are to impact our world today. Whatever our experiences, God was there in their midst and the proof of that is where He has you today.


I am a far more humble parent than I was when my first son was born. I realize more clearly than ever my own brokenness and that realization helps me forgive the hurts from my own childhood. I hope my children do better than me but know that they deal with their own brokenness and in the end it is the grace and love of Jesus that makes the difference for all of us.