When I was a young girl, my Mom showed me a picture of my Nanny (her mother) as a child with her family. She showed me the people who had committed suicide; the people who were alcoholics, the people who had fought battles and lost.
She looked at me and said: “The cycle stops here. With us.” She told me and she hugged me, she said we were going to be different, that we would succeed where others failed.
I lost her, too. Just a few years after that conversation.
I sometimes wonder if in her fight to escape she forgot that she also had to fight to live.
There are echos of generational brokenness scattered across our culture. I’m not talking about “generational curses” that were talked about in the Old Testament. I’m talking about an alcoholic family producing alcoholic children because that is all they know. Or an abusive husband who raises a son who is an abuser too.
Generational brokenness is everywhere when you start to look. I see it when I see local stories of families destroyed by two generations worth of bad decisions that cumulate in tragic loss. I hear echos of it in the voice of a man who shoots his daughter and 6 grandchildren. I saw it when my father shot my mother and I see it when I look at my husband and my children and I know that we have to fight.
I can’t speak to your story – I can only speak about mine. And I know that in mine there are generations and generations of brokenness. I bring alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence with me into my marriage with my husband. He brings alcoholism and bi-polar depression.
We bring ourselves, and written on our spirits are fingerprints of the past.
For better or for worse we are children of the generation before us.
Where then, is our hope?
What then, can save us?
I don’t have all the answers. I can only guess. But here are a few things I can tell you.
- Being aware is crucial – I grew up knowing that my parents were fighting against the bad things they had learned from their parents, just like their parents surely had fought against the bad things they learned from theirs. Each generation the combination changed. I didn’t see my parents alcoholism until the last few years of their life, but I grew up seeing their domestic violence (not that I realized it at the time). I grew up from age 5 knowing the effects of suicide. Being aware helps you actively fight against it.
- You have to actively fight against it – I can only speculate, but I suspect that my parents actively fought against the errors of their predecessors for a very long time until they slowly stopped fighting as hard. And eventually, day by day, they got a little bit more lax, until finally they stopped. And it was when they stopped that darkness took over and it wasn’t long before they went too far and lost their lives. Fighting is the only option.
- It’s not easy –
Sometimesit is exhausting.
- Where there is brokenness, grace abounds – God is, thankfully, much bigger than the broken situation we find ourselves in. Nothing is too shattered for Him. Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
2 Corinthians 2:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
I don’t know if I can successfully fight the brokenness I’ve learned from my parents. But I do know that I’m going to fight it at every corner, at every turn, and work hard to stay aware of it. I’m going to keep myself accountable to my husband, and vice-versa, because together we are stronger.
And at the beginning of every day, I’m going to try to lean on God. Because it is exhausting to fight, and he is strong. Life makes me despair, but with him I feel hope.
Ephesians 6:10 reminds me to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
He is our greatest hope.