Our special music from yesterday’s service was a song from Matthew West called “Family Tree.” You can hear him perform it himself with the following video by clicking here!
The song was inspired by a letter West once received from a young woman named Rebecca. She grew up in an extremely broken household. Someone once remarked to her that this will be her legacy—all the anger, hurt, and pain. Yet in that moment she had a realization from God that this would not define her. She could overcome whatever difficulties of the past and forge a new future in Christ.
I was doing some digging on the internet, and I discovered West’s thoughts on writing the song…
“On one of my last nights in the cabin, I was writing in my journal, and reading over stories. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a topic that I must write about, something God wanted me to communicate through song. I wrote the words ‘generational baggage,’ in my journal.
A story from a woman named, Rebecca in Florida impacted me greatly, and painted such a vivid picture of just how heavy the weight of generational baggage can be, and the toll it can take on a heart. Many people walk through their lives allowing their dysfunctional upbringing, their damaged relationship with a parent, or abusive childhood to hold them captive. Your father had a temper, so you’ll probably have a temper. Your mom got pregnant as a teenager, so you’ll probably do the same. Your parents divorced, so you probably won’t be able to keep your marriage together either. Rebecca’s story was so inspiring, because she has discovered the wonderful promise that we do not have to carry on the legacy that has been left to us, no matter how dysfunctional. Our past does not define us. We are defined by the love of Christ, and in him we have been given a new legacy, and a chance to break the chains of generational curses.
What a wonderful reminder that God can give us the strength to put a stop to the past, and set our lives on a new road, bringing new life to our family tree.”
This song really caused me to think about all the different kinds of ministry experiences I’ve had with folks. From sitting in church offices, being in prisons, to hearing testimonies, too often we overlook the effects that come from a broken upbringing. We might think everyone must be messed up. We might just sweep problems under the rug and pretend like we are OK. We would much rather be positive and try to put on a happy face.
I’m reminded of a young man in the prison ministry program who was raised by a violent father who abused alcohol and would force his children to fist fight for entertainment. I think of a 15-year-old teenager in a juvenile detention center who worried that he would end up like his father and serve decades in prison. I also remember teaching a study at a former church where one of the fathers in the group shared how difficult is was to “unlearn” the foul language his parents used against him as a child. Or there was the tragic story from a mission trip where a young woman on our team was trying to overcome the effects of sexual abuse in her family.
From alcohol abuse, divorce, to racism, we can certainly face major burdens and brokenness from our history. Are we simply doomed to repeat the past?
As we enter into God’s family, we find hope, redemption, and a possibility for a new future. Christ heals us and grants us the power to overcome that broken past. He can bear the brokenness of “generational baggage.” That’s what having a true family of faith is all about. We have God, our heavenly parent, and Christ our brother to welcome us into this brand new family tree.