PATHWAY TO HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY - LESSON 10
We are moving into Part 2 tonight.. last week we discussed a lot about our families and identifying the patterns and cycles that have been passed down. During our group time this evening, you will be given an opportunity to put together what is called a genogram or family tree of sorts. I believe you will find this exercise enlightening as you go through the various relationships and dynamics that you discover that have been passed down from generation to generation and quite possibly patterns that need to be broken in your life.
God’s desire for us to leave our families is similar to the desire He had for the Israelites to leave Egypt. Even though they left Egypt physically, a great deal of the culture, beliefs and thinking stayed with them. In the same way, we make a decision to follow Christ but in reality, we may be following (unconsciously) the commandments and rules of our family that have been internalized not our ‘new family’ – not the commandments of God and His family.
We must to back in order to go forward… we learned that in our last lesson. Compartmentalization of our lives is one thing that has prevented us as well as others in the church to dig deeply into our roots. What I mean by this is the compartment where we place all the ‘spiritual’ stuff and nothing else gets integrated into it – ie, emotions, dealing with our past, etc. When we compartmentalize our lives, we are disconnected spiritually. All areas of our life need to intersect with the spiritual - finances, relationships, career, emotions, beliefs, etc.
Let’s go back to the story of Frank that we learned about last week. As Frank digs deeply into his past, he begins to share some things… and in his sharing, since it has not been taught or accepted in the Christian circles he has been in, he feels guilty about uncovering buried family secrets. He fights the need to expose these things. Unfortunately, it took the crisis of possibly losing his wife and family to move him to a point (just like so many others in our churches) of dealing with his history and family of origin issues. How much better it would be if we simply make this a part of our journey.. part of the process of sanctification. I believe there would be so much grief spared in people’s lives down the road.
So what did Frank discover? He began to realize some connections as to why he was emotionally unavailable, struggling with intimacy and could not parent his sons well. As he considered his parent's marriage, he could see that his marriage was much better than theirs but was it healthy? His father’s father was physically abusive and an alcoholic. But his father had become a Christian. He seemed to be ok but .. he did struggle his whole life with some sort of sexual addiction. Frank’s family had moved an average of every 3 years as his dad took on various assignments in the army. Therefore, he never developed close friends anywhere. The entire family revolved around his dad. He was angry.. and his mom tiptoed around him. Her whole life was about him.. she gave up all her wants and desires for him and the kids (codependency/enabling). She had died recently and Frank was feeling the loss now that was a bit different.. he was feeling grief over the fact that he sees that she never really lived.. she just existed.
As Frank continued to work through his history with a safe person, he revealed his struggle with pornography of which he was exposed to at the age of 12. Because dealing with our past and our ‘issues’ is not part of our discipleship or spiritual formation, generational sins and patterns are passed on and will continue to be passed on without interventions – those that bring people into the power of the Lord Jesus that He offers each and every one of us. We are all part of a new family and we do not have to be controlled or have our futures determined by our biological family of origin! We can have a radical new beginning but that beginning always starts by this realization and taking that inside look we have been talking about for months.
What does the Bible instruct us about our family? Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived at a house where he was teaching and they were looking for him to come outside. Jesus responded: Mark 3:33-35
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
The church for us/ for the believer is now God’s family. And what about loyalty and honoring our parents? Matthew 10:37 ..
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Jesus calls all of us to have our first loyalties to Him.
Discipleship, growing into spiritual maturity then is: putting off the sinful patterns and habits of our biological families and being transformed to live as members of Christ’s family. We can however, still honor our parents, culture and histories but obey God. We all have to look at our brokenness and sin of our family and culture – it is a must, not an option. Philosopher George Santanya said it well: “Those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”.
In God’s family, we are called to be faithful to His purposes and plans for our lives. We are called to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (see Matthew 6:33).
Let’s have a look at how some families are outlined or defined. This is called the ‘Beaver System Model’ which is outlined in the ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ book.
Level 5: The Family Pain --- severely disturbed family, leadership is lacking, chaos, uncertainly, confusion, turmoil. Conflicts are never dealt with or resolved. No ability to look at issues clearly
Level 4: The Borderline Family ---polarized family, instead of anarchy like level 5, a dictatorship rules here, instead of ‘no rules’, there are black and white rules, rigid ways of thinking, feeling and behaving – expected from all members. Cannot say ‘you disagree’ with anything said
Level 3: The Rule-Bound Family ---not in chaos or under dictatorship, healthier than level 4 but feeling loved or good about oneself depends on obeying the spoken and unspoken rules. ‘if you love me, you will do all the things you know will meet with my approval’. It seems the rules are more important than the individual.. and there may be a subtle level of manipulation, intimidation and guilt that permeates the home.
Levels 2 & 1: Those that may also be classified as ‘semi-healthy’ or ‘semi-functional’.. The Adequate Family and the Optimal Family --- ability to be flexible and cherish each individual member while at the same time valuing a sense of closeness. Good feelings, trust, and teamwork by the parents enable members to work through difficulties and conflicts. The one things that distinguishes level 1 and level 2 families is ‘delight’.. level 1 families truly delight in being with one another.
BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF GOING BACK TO GO FORWARD – JOSEPH: Genesis
We discussed Joseph briefly last week.. let’s go into a little more detail about his life tonight. Joseph actually models for us how to go back to go forward. ¼ of the book of Genesis is about Joseph’s spiritual journey into maturity and his living out his unique destiny in God.
Background on Joseph: His family was characterized by great brokenness and sadness. He was the 11th of 12 sons and was his father, Jacob’s favorite. He was in a complex, blended family – Jacob had 2 wives and 2 concubines and all including the children lived under the same roof. Joseph appears to be, as a teen, very arrogant and his sharing of his dreams and visions from God actually alienated him more and more from his siblings. Their hatred of him grew to the point of faking his death and selling him as a slave to Egypt. Lying, half-truths, secrecy and jealousy were all part of the generational patterns in the family and certainly this act of the brothers took it to a new level. In many ways we could say that the level and number of secrets in a family gives an indication of its sickness/ dysfunction. Joseph’s family, by this standard, was very sick!
Imagine being Joseph – lost his parents, siblings, culture, food, language, freedom, hopes – all in one day! Devastating! Then to top it off .. while in Egypt he is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison and spent at least 10-13 years there. What a waste! What betrayal! His life to the age of 30 all seems to be nothing but tragedy. If anyone should have been filled with bitterness, rage, resentment because of their history and family pain, it would be Joseph! And what about his feelings toward God? If anyone could have been angry, frustrated, lose hope in the Lord, it would be Joseph! Yes.. he remained faithful even when horrific events happened outside of his control. The Word describes Joseph as ‘walking with God’.
Finally, the miraculous happened and Joseph was pulled out of the pit and he continued to walk with God until his dying day and eventually he was a blessing to his family of origin, Egypt and the world. Joseph honored and blessed the family that betrayed him. How could he do that? God’s grace… and Joseph was willing to back to go forward!
Lessons from his life on how to go back to go forward:
1. He had a profound sense of the bigness of God. – Joseph continually affirmed the large, loving involvement of God through all his hardship and pain. He affirmed that God mysteriously leads us into His purposes even through the dark times. God has history in His grip – He is in control. He affirmed that God was ‘bigger’ than any and all of his circumstances. “God never wastes a hurt”. When we surrender our mistakes, sin, hurts, betrayals, disappointments to God, He takes the detours and uses them to orchestrate His purposes. Joseph rested in God’s goodness and love even when circumstances when from bad to worse. He hung on to the ‘love of God’ just like we need to as we are digging deeply into the hurts and mistakes of the past or dealing with our heartache today because of our life situation.
2. He admitted honestly the sadness and losses of his family. – Most of us resist going back and feeling pain and hurt of our past. We can envision it as a black hole that we will fall into and never come out. We wonder at times, when we do this hard work if it is only getting worse and never better. We must do the same as Joseph.. every encounter he had with his family that triggered the loss and pain.. he took the time to weep, feel, deal with all that was there deep within his sole. In fact, his weeping was so intense Genesis 45:2 says that he wept so loudly the Egyptians heard him. He did not rationalize or minimize the painful years of his past.
I was talking to someone the other day about Hannah in Samuel/ the old testament. Hannah was barren and longed for a child.. The Word describes her pain and lament such that she was inconsolable. There are times in our lives that we grieve and feel pain so deeply that it/ we cannot be consoled – we cannot speak – we cannot pray. Ever been there? I have.. there have been times that I felt my heart was going to literally explode within me from the pain. As difficult as it is, we must honestly admit the sadness and losses in our families.
3. He rewrote his life script according to God’s word. – Joseph could have bought into a lot of lies because of the things that happened to him. In fact, he may have for a season and then overcame them with truth just like each of us has the ability to do. He may have made vows to himself just like we have…’I’ll never trust again. I’ll never allow anyone to get close to me again” “I’ll never take risks” “I’ll never allow myself to ‘feel’ that deeply again”.
What are the vows and beliefs that have been part of your life? What is the life script that has been handed to you through your family of origin and experiences? Joseph was very aware of the script given to him… he made the decision to rewrite it – his future – with God.
When our script has been rewritten or it is being rewritten we will notice something when around our family of origin. We will no longer go back to our patterns of behaving in a certain role - we break free from our past and are able to live in what God has for us now not how they view us or how we once viewed ourselves in that family system. Examples.
4. He partnered with God to be a blessing. ---Joseph had the power to destroy his brothers in anger. Instead he joined with God to bless them. For many of us, that may seem impossible for us to do given our circumstance but with God, ALL things are possible. When our whole lives are structured around loving and following the Lord, we will be able to make godly choices just like Joseph. When confronted with an opportunity for revenge or blessing, we will choose blessing. Jesus said in Luke 6:2828 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
THE PATHWAY TO HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY - LESSON 10 – GROUP WORK
BREAKING THE POWER OF THE PAST – PART 2
1. Take the next 10 minutes to put together your own family genogram/ family tree. Feel free to use other symbols that are not provided in the handouts. Use whatever will help you in identifying patterns/ cycles that have been passed on in your family as well as symbols. Once this is completed, each person will have an opportunity to share their insights.
2. Share your experiences good and bad of the differences you have encountered with your biological family and the family of God.
3. Of the Five Levels of family – which do you most identify with as your family of origin? Which identifies your current family system? And which identifies your ‘family of God’ system you are currently in?
4. Based upon your findings tonight, what are the areas you need to intentionally work on in order to move forward in Christ (boundaries, dealing with conflict, intimacy, etc)?