Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Generational Legacies

The morning seemed normal enough, except for the disappearance of his shoes. Dickie shuddered to think he would be late again for school and feared his parents’ reprimands. His young ears loathed their harsh words about his deficiencies and failures.

He rummaged through his sparse closet a final time, grabbed his jacket off the floor, and discovered a tattered pair of tennis shoes. Dickie quickly slipped into the shoes, tiptoed down the stairs, slipped out the front door, and embarked on his walk to elementary school.

Dickie’s day at school was uneventful. At the end of the day, he said goodbye to his friends, traveled the trek home, walked up the steps, and stood in disbelief when he opened the front door. “Where is everybody?

He called out for his parents as he wandered from room to room. No parents. No stuff. He waited in the empty house until his parents finally returned. They somehow forgot to tell my dad they had moved.

When my dad told me his story, I was heartbroken. But it helped me understand why he was harsh with me about my deficiencies and failures. He couldn’t give me what he did not have—he could only emulate what he was taught.

When my sons were young, I consistently told them I loved them. When they did stupid things, I never told them they were stupid. But I yelled a lot, reminded them of any deficiencies or failures, and passed on the generational legacy of my grandparents. I despised how I treated them, but no matter how hard I prayed, my reprimands about spilled milk continued.

I had a personal relationship with Jesus, but why couldn’t I stop yelling? I surely wasn’t starting them “off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) Instead, I was leading them to feel the hurts my dad and I experienced!

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16 (NIV) 

Did I hinder them through a legacy of harsh words and impatience? Would they turn away from God because they felt turned away from me? Would they pass my grandparents’ behavior to their children?

When my sons were teenagers, I continued to pray for deliverance from yelling and that God would protect them from my harsh words.

God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) 

I wish I knew back then that He permits me to quit dwelling on the past, set aside my mistakes and those of my ancestors, and accept a new way to walk through life!

When my sons became adults, the yelling was gone. But my hardest questions remained. Did I hinder my sons’ desire for Jesus? Did they experience brokenness by my words? If I stood side by side with my sons in front of a mirror, would they see Jesus’ reflection in me? Do they see my legacy to be one of anger or one that leads them closer to Jesus?

2 Corinthians 3:18 gives me hope:

“And we all … are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.” (NIV)

None of us are perfect in this life. We are all in the process of transformation. It’s never too late to lead my sons deeper into a legacy of faith.

I asked my sons for forgiveness and what they remembered most about their childhood. They said I lived out my faith, always showed up, and loved them like crazy. Yelling was not on the list!

And my dad? He’s in Heaven—and still my biggest fan!

Copyright © 2018 Cheryl Crofoot Knapp, used with permission.

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