In college, I took a class called “Family Studies,” which mostly focused on identifying and resolving family conflicts through counseling. One of our assignments was to create a family tree, but not a typical family tree that confines itself to names, important dates and marriages. Using different colors and symbols, we had to mark on this family tree all divorces, infidelity, prejudice, abuse, illegitimate children, addictions and other “isms” (alcoholism, workaholism, etc.).
Talk about depressing. My family tree was a colorful display of what I would call “generational sins.” There were recurring problems, hitting generation after generation and tracing back to every branch of my broken and pitiful familial oak. Even the innocent people like my mom, who made decisions to break the hold of these sins on our family, were impacted anyway by the actions of others, wrapped up, entangled and choked through sins by association.
Then I read the statistics in the book about these hand-me-down burdens. The numbers were clear. My life should have been marred by abuse, alcoholism, marital infidelity, and divorce. My marriage doomed. My kids hurt.
Yet, God’s grace has a way of showing up in statistical anomalies.
Have you ever surveyed your past, maybe your own sins or maybe the baggage you carry from the family’s closet skeletons? Have you looked back and thought, “God can’t use someone like me, not with what I’ve done or where I’ve come from?”
Or, have you been breathlessly in awe of God’s blessing and asked like King David,”Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?” (2 Samuel 7:18, NIV). That’s my whispered prayer sometimes as I thank God for a husband so faithful, kids so healthy, life filled to the brink and overflowing with God’s goodness. “Who am I and what is my family?”
Some women are loathe to abandon their maiden names when they marry. They hyphenate or simply decline to visit the Social Security office for a name change, wanting instead to preserve their own family heritage or identity. That wasn’t me. When I married, I was eager to take on a new name, to be grafted into a new heritage and allowed to flourish as a branch on a new family tree, so simple and beautiful in its unbroken state.
One of the first things I did as a newlywed was carry my marriage license and birth certificate to the Social Security office and wait in an unending line for one man in a little window to process my paperwork. Finally, they called my number. I hopped up and smiled as I pushed across my papers. This balding little man glanced up at me and said, “Got married, eh? What did you do a stupid thing like that for?” Ignoring his jibe, I waited patiently for him to finish and then triumphantly walked away from his desk with a new name (and saying a few prayers for his wife!).
Here I sit today at my kitchen table, Bible open once again to Matthew 1 and it strikes me that Jesus’s family tree was no impressive oak, stately, strong and unharmed by conflict and sins. Instead, like mine, his genealogy is the story of redemption poured out one generation after another.
I survey the names, their stories so familiar.
- Tamar, who dressed up like a prostitute and tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her (Genesis 38).
- Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1).
- King David himself, adulterer and murder (2 Samuel 11) and Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, the adulteress.
- Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, who “did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites . . . He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger” (2 Kings 21:2, 6).
That’s not exactly a family tree to tack up over the mantle piece with pride. Unless . . .
Unless you’re God, who wants to remind us:
- That He has “called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light” (2 Peter 2:9).
- That “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).
- That it is a “great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1, NIV).
God does not define us by statistics or confine us because of our sins. He is forever making us new, redeeming and restoring what has been broken and destroyed. Through our salvation we are removed from heritages of sin and brought into a new family. Slaves no longer, we have been adopted as sons and daughters into the family of Christ. The genealogy that Matthew ended with 42 generations connecting Abraham to the Messiah, now continues on with us. Our names now listed in the line of Jesus, our stories now entwined in the heritage of grace.
So, we struggle against sin, taking a stand for holiness and refusing to allow shame from our past or brokenness from our family tree to impact our children and continue unhindered through the generations. By this struggle and through His grace, we overcome and we are promised in Revelation 2:17, “To him who overcomes, to him I will give . . . a new name” (NASB). This time, it’s a name we don’t have to stand in line for or receive from a crabby man at the Social Security office made tired by government bureaucracy. No, this new name will be bestowed on us by God, marking us as His own special and beloved children.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King