Thursday, October 7, 2010

I am Thankful for Some Broken Traditions

I team teach a course with Dr. Doug Slocumb on family ministry. We both subscribe to family systems theory. Systems theory holds in part that the family functions as a whole with each member functioning in specific ways to keep the whole working. Even when one member is unhealthy in a way that negatively impacts the family (addiction, neurosis, etc,) that member’s issues are integrated into the whole with other members compensating so that the family system continues to work even if highly misfunctional. A strange as it may seem, an individual’s problems may become so woven into the fabric of the family system that the problems become necessary for the family’s survival. For example, if an alcoholic father dies another member of the family will often develop an addiction. That family needs to focus on one member’s addiction in order to feel they are a family.

Systems theory further teaches that the patterns with which individuals relate to their family members are passed down to the next generation. We learn how to exist in family relations from the relations of our family of origin. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The sons of alcoholic fathers will often be addicts themselves, even if the addiction is to work. The point is that family patterns and traditions tend to be passed on to the next generation even if they are disguised in an alternative form.

I am thankful for the majority of the values and patterns of relationships that were woven into me by a loving and disciplined family system. There are a few patterns I wish I could have broken out of; I am a workaholic. What causes me to marvel, are the family patterns out of which my parents were able to break.   I also marvel at how they turned highly destructive patterns into positive traits. It is as if they took all of the positive traits of their family systems and amplified them to drown out most of the bad.

The apple does not fall far from the tree, but it can choose to fall in the right direction. By the grace of God we can break destructive patterns of behavior that damage our relationships. We can also identify their root causes and seek healing and wholeness. That may be the central calling of families that follow Christ. The members of Christian families must relate to each other as Christians and as Christians they must seek together to find healing and wholeness; they must build up one another, minister healing to one another, and deal with the worldly patterns that seek dominance in their lives. I am thankful Christ has made a way for us to truly minister grace to those we love the most. We do not have to live out patterns of destruction, no matter how many generations have been marred by those same patterns.

One of my great-grandfathers was an alcoholic who abused his wife and children.  Several of my uncles fit that pattern as well, at least for lengthy periods of their lives.  Others were verbally and emotionally abusive.  Some were bigoted and otherwise vile.  [There were of course many others who modeled goodness and compassion, but they are not the subject of this entry.]  By God’s grace, I have never witnessed any of those behaviors in my family. My Dad use to say he was proud of his children; they never caused him any trouble.  I know that is the fruit of a praying mother, and that is my point.  The prayers of a righteous mother availeth much; they break the stronghold of family systems.

Cleveland, Tennessee
October 7, 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am thankful for mom's prayers. I miss them.