The Challenge: What “Runs in the Family”

Rebecca Hagelin

If you could take any aspect from the family you grew up in and bring it into the family you have created, what would it be? A certain holiday tradition? The way your home was always filled with visitors? The friendship and affection your parents had for each other? Or maybe even the tough, but refining love they showed you?

What would you obliterate, if you could? The alcoholism? The sting of abandonment? Strict rules and unfair punishment? Short tempers?

Your answers to these questions may reveal more than you think. Even though it’s true that history has a tendency to repeat itself – especially along bloodlines – every generation has the opportunity to add to, or to take away from the list of things that “run in the family.”

Scripture makes it clear that the way we live has a profound affect on the lives of those who come after us. In fact, there are many passages about blessings being passed from the righteous to their children, grandchildren and beyond. There are also many passages that point out how sinful actions committed by one generation often have consequences for generations to come.

For example, Exodus 20:5-6 says:

“I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” Ask the children of an alcoholic and they will tell you of the pain they continue to experience from their childhood; sons and daughters of abusive parents will often share their struggle in attempting to free themselves from repeating the same horrible behavior they experienced at the hands of their moms or dads.

The reality is that our negative actions, attitudes and bad habits are all too easily transferred to our children, who in turn, unknowingly also often transfer them to their children. It’s sobering to think about our decisions having such an extreme negative effect on people who don’t even exist yet. Do you have a propensity to lie? To be dishonest? To spout off in anger? Chances are, your children will too.

But, thank God, equally as powerful is this beautiful passage from Psalm 103:15-18:

“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone – as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant…”

Praise God that He allows an escape from the negative, evil and horrible things from our past!

Since it is true that our days on earth are like grass, since we all wither and die as quickly as flowers of the field, then shouldn’t we make a pointed effort to seize the opportunity to break any chain of abuse or negativity that we might unwittingly be passing down to the generations to follow? And, as importantly, since God’s blessings last forever – since his mercy and his love are enduring – we must grab the moments we have to pass on His lasting blessings to our own flesh and blood; to be intentional and deliberate about blessing them forever!

Now is the time to ask ourselves two critical questions: “What can I do today to help create a beautiful legacy for my children to enjoy here on Earth?” And, more importantly, “What can I do today to help instill in my children the eternal blessings that come from having a personal relationship with Christ?”

The Hope: Lasting Legacy

Dr. James Dobson is a hero of millions of families all around the world, including ours. His life’s work has been to strengthen the bonds between mothers and fathers with their sons and daughters - and all of them with each other. No one has affected more families and individuals within those families for the good than Dr. Dobson. Countless couples will tell you how he helped them strengthen their marriages – to discover the beauty and deep, abiding peace and love that comes when you give sacrificially to each other – fully committed as partners in marriage. And the letters that continue to arrive at his offices every day at his newest ministry, Family Talk, testify how lives are enjoyed to the full here on Earth when moms and dads intentionally practice behavior that brings joy to their households and children. But most impressive are the many letters that have arrived over the years from children who share how the faith of their mom or dad caused them to place their own faith in Jesus Christ – and what an enduring difference that has made. We know about these letters, because Rebecca serves on the board of directors of Family Talk.

Now, Dr. Dobson has a new book entitled, Your Legacy: Your Greatest Gift, that shares this truth: No matter what stage you are in as a parent, you can leave a lasting spiritual legacy that can serve to help equip the ones you love with an unshakeable heritage of faith in Christ. 

When our dear mother and grandmother lay dying, we were both privileged to be with her for her final days. We sang and prayed as we wiped her brow, and just loved on her. As “Mamma Doc” hovered between Earth and Heaven in the last hours of her life, Kristin – still quite young – was sleeping peacefully in a chair at the foot of the hospital bed. Rebecca whispered words of encouragement and love to her beloved mom, as she reflected on her fleeting life. Our “Mamma Doc” loved beautiful things. Flowers, clothes, jewelry – you name it. If it was beautiful, she loved and prized it. But as Rebecca sat lovingly stroking her arm and praying softly, releasing her into the arms of Jesus, she pondered over the reality that Mamma could not take one thing with her. Not even the smallest or most prized possession.

Or could she? The presence of God’s presence was suddenly so powerful that is was nearly tangible as Rebecca suddenly realized, yes, Mamma Doc could take something to Heaven – the one something that really matters: The people who accepted Christ as a result of her testimony will one day go there too! How utterly hopeful and beautiful and powerful!

The only “possessions” scripture says we will see in heaven are the friends and family members who come to know Jesus as their Lord. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote:

“What gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.”

When we are told in Matthew to store up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, we are being told to win people to Christ by the way we live. Our relationships are our greatest treasures here on earth and the only earthly treasures that will last for all eternity.

There is no better opportunity to inspire a love for Christ in others than through our families - the people we know most intimately. Dr. Dobson’s book provides ways to do that. Through very personal and moving stories from his own family, he shares the secrets to the joys that we and our own children can experience when we take the time to deliberately build a lasting legacy. What more could you want for your children than for them to love their Creator and live confidently believing that He loves and approves of them?

Dr. Dobson also shares his personal stories about his own journey, outlines strategies for the spiritual training of children, gives guidelines for reaching out to family members and focuses on teaching how to build generational faith into your family.

No matter your age or the age of your children – whether they be infants or adults with children of their own – as long as there is breath in you, it is not too late. 

“The love of the Lord remains forever… ”

What kind of legacy will you leave behind?

Rebecca and Kristin are a mother/daughter writing team. They are two women from different generations and perspectives who share a belief in timeless, biblical principles. They can be reached at Rebecca and [email protected]

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