People have asked what we find so fascinating about researching family genealogy and uncovering clues about generations past. It’s not the walk through the old obscure graveyards with barely readable headstones. It’s not digging through yellowed dusty files of centuries old land records. And, it’s certainly not the frustration found in poorly recorded census records. No, actually we have found that not by chance or coincidence, family lines often reveal growing trends toward a specific destiny in the mind and purpose of God.
“The beauty of collaboration between older and younger generations is that we combine strength with wisdom—a surefire way to accomplish more for the glory of God.” – Brett Harris
A particular generation’s significance can often be seen in the transformation of the family line as it grows toward its highest potential through the years. In order to accomplish this in a current generation, however, it’s important we understand the purpose and potential of our family by studying previous generations. This, of course, includes their achievements and failures, their greatness and their shortcomings, their lifestyles and cultures. To put it simply, there are many lessons to be learned in studying the lives of those who helped to lay the foundation for our lives and lifestyles.
My husband and I have spent more than two decades doing family research as a hobby. Our work in the beginning was simply curiosity based on some family stories passed down to us from grandparents and those who knew our family. It was also a means for me, as an adoptee, to attempt to find biological family members. But our understanding of the importance of family history has grown exponentially as we learn more about the personalities of those who have gone before us. We learn how they worked hard to provide for their own, to make it possible for their offspring to enjoy a better life and more opportunities for success. Each generation seems to share commonalities, not just in physical traits, but also in beliefs, levels of integrity, life emphases, and more. You can literally see some decisions they made and how those decisions paved the road toward how later generations approach life.
“Parenthood…It’s about guiding the next generation, and forgiving the last.” – Robert Krause
In our research, we have learned to apply forgiveness and grace to our ancestor’s failures. Rather than standing in judgment of their shortcomings and wrongdoings (and there are many on all sides of our family), we’ve learned to see them through the eyes of God, applying grace when judgment was justified, forgiving them as we have been forgiven. And, of course, we’ve learned much from the consequences of their own downfalls. By this, we are better prepared to lead our next generations to a greater and fuller potential so they, in turn, can lead their children and grandchildren to achieve and accomplish even more, ultimately fulfilling the plan and purpose of God through our unique family lines.
We have learned the importance of honoring former generations with love and respect, and to be thankful for them. Their lives were purposeful, even if it seems they were failures in every sense of the word. Thank God for using our generational lines to build in us characteristics that He can use to bring about His purposes in our current and future generations. While piecing the family tree together, we look for the good in those who have walked this earth before us, teaching that to our children and grandchildren so they will see how worthwhile it is to build their own lives on the successes and courage of their ancestors. There is always something good to say about someone even if they lived several generations ago.
When we take a closer look at the family line through the eyes of God, we understand more clearly how His intention is to build generation upon generation to accomplish His purposes in the earth. We can also see why we are experiencing such an assault on the family in our contemporary culture. We are in a battle to preserve God’s sovereign and holy objective through family — through generations. It is our duty as believers to fight against the mainstream assault on the family, preserving its richness and unique purposefulness for future generations.
A quick scan of the political hot points of the day reveals an irrefutable trend that undermines the sanctity of the family and life itself. Abortion. Same-sex marriage. Gender reassignment. All these and more throw a monkey wrench into the revealed plan and purpose in the mind of God for generations. In fact, this liberal trend hinders the transformation of the family line from growing to reach its highest potential. Abortion stops generations from forming. Same-sex marriage fails to allow for natural reproduction. Gender reassignment brings confusion as it also reroutes God-intended future generations from continuing the family line. It’s not difficult to see how the assault on the family has challenged God’s mandate to multiply and subdue the earth.
“One generation carries the pain so that the next can live and heal. One cannot live without the other, each is the other’s hope, meaning & strength.” – Gemma B. Benton
As one generation experienced victories, failures, tests, consequences of sin, etc., the next generation has been privileged to gain understanding, hope, meaning and strength—enough to propel their own family forward toward greater potential for success. This knowledge also allows for the redemption of the previous generation’s missteps through forgiveness and experienced gained in order for poor choices and errors to be avoided.
“The traditions of … bygone times, even to the smallest social particular, enable one to understand more clearly the circumstances which contributed to the formation of character.” – Elizabeth Gaskell
While we’re in the season of celebrating family and friends, let’s take some time to consider how we can impact our children and grandchildren with generational significance. Talk to them about your parents and grandparents, emphasizing forgiveness for their failures and celebrating their strengths. Plant seeds of curiosity in them so they will grow to search out their ancestral history if for no other reason than to reach toward even higher potentials in their own lives and, subsequently, that of their own children and grandchildren.
Finally, be thankful to God for those who have gone before you, laying a foundation for your own successes and achievements in life. Thank Him for using both the good and the bad in your own family history to lead you toward a fulfilling life in which God is glorified and for which your children will one day look back and call you blessed!
“His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed.” – Psalm 112:2
Jan Ross is most recognized as a keynote speaker for women’s ministry, an international missionary and an author of inspirational articles, teaching materials and commentaries on current events. She considers her role as wife and mother as of paramount importance next only to that of cultivating her relationship with Jesus Christ. Wisdom gained from being a wife of 45+ years, an adoptee who has raised both biological and adopted children, and leading an international evangelical ministry has made it possible for her to speak into the lives of men, women and youth from all walks of life. Her life’s goal is to nurture growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jan has also written hundreds of articles and is a contributing author published in several anthologies and Christian media. Seasons of Refreshing, a series of seasonal devotionals, is being published and made available through her website at http://janross.org. Jan and her husband Ron live in rural North Central Ohio.