1Kings 22: 51-52 (the message)
Ahaziah son of Ahab became King over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. He ruled Israel for two years. As far as God was concerned, he lived an evil life, reproducing the bad life of his father and mother, repeating the pattern set down by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who led Israel into a life of sin.
2Kings 2:9 (the message)
When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.”
Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you.”
As I read these verses this morning I thought about families. I thought about how patterns are set and repeated. In the first scripture a sinful pattern had been set by Jeroboam and generations later we see Ahaziah “reproducing the bad life of his father and mother.” Jeroboam had not lived for God, he had not honored God but led the people under his charge, through his example, into wickedness.
In the second verse we see Elijah, the mighty prophet of God, asking Elisha (his apprentice) what he can do for him before he is taken from earth. Elijah was not on his death-bed. He was “taken” but not through death. The 2nd chapter of 2kings states a chariot with horses of fire came and Elijah was taken from Elisha in a “whirlwind” (the message). Prior to this happening, however, Elisha tells Elijah he wants “your life repeated in my life.” And if you read on you will discover that indeed the power and anointing on Elijah’s life was passed on to Elisha. Elijah had lived boldly before God. He has spoken truth and lived in obedience and God had used him! Elisha’s one request? That Elijah’s life be repeated in his…see, Elisha had followed Elijah. Even when Elijah said you stay here Elisha would say Oh no! I’m going where you go! Elisha was soaking up the life of Elijah.
How does this relate to my life today? To yours? In two ways that I can see. First, realizing that we may very well be reproducing patterns in our own lives that were set long ago in our family history. Some are life-giving and some are not. For instance, I can clearly identify some patterns that were passed down in my family but because I have parents who let God show them these things I can face the truth…and truth sets us free, right? See, the patterns that are harmful, sinful or even out of ignorance can be reproduced in our lives because as children we absorb our environment. If we are raised in a harsh or abusive environment or we are abandoned those are the experiences we draw from. The thoughts and feelings associated with our childhood become the reservoir from which we draw to deal with life. Which brings me to the second way these verses apply to us…
As we have children of our own, or as we relate to those in our lives vulnerable to our influence, we give out of what we have. Most likely the pattern that was reproduced in our upbringing will be repeated in our own children. We may have resented or promised ourselves never to be like such and such but as we try to parent we only have the tools we were given. We may hate ourselves for doing (or not doing) the very things that hurt us as children but we find ourselves repeating the same behavior. Have you ever heard the saying “hurt people hurt people?” It’s really true and sums up the idea I am trying to convey. When people do not honor God, when they do not know the love of God personally in their own lives, they will grasp at it in various forms and can be creating or setting patterns that will affect future generations. Heavy, I know.
Here is the uplifting news…we do not have to remain trapped in patterns and behaviors that are rooted in lives that came before our own. We are not condemned to pass those same behaviors and ways of thinking to our own children. We can draw a line in the generational sand. There is power for our lives because of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross and He can break those patterns. I personally do not have the power or ability in and of myself to change. I was doing my best as a wife and mother with what I had and I had a lot of great stuff in me from my childhood, but I was also bringing the other stuff, too. Isn’t that life? Isn’t that being human? We are such a complex mix of all of the experiences and genetics and environment of our lives. I wasn’t naturally filled with emotional stability and gentleness. I knew my failures and I truly felt trapped. Desperately wanting to be and do better for my girls and husband but not knowing how. For me, I have learned I don’t have to figure it out and no I don’t have the “will-power” to change things so completely foundational in my life experience. But you know what? Jesus has the power. When He took sin on in the death-match of the ages He came out victorious…and that was for me. I know that can sound so “churchy” but my eyes well up as I write because I mean it quite personally. I don’t have to be filled with every answer in every parenting book I can find. I don’t have to be filled with the latest advice from Oprah or Dr. Phil. I don’t have to be filled with wishing away things I couldn’t control from my childhood. I just have to be filled with Jesus. Again, sounds churchy. How can I convey my heart? Look at it this way: What do you give your time and attention to throughout your day? Whatever you answer with is what fills you. Television, music, books, conversation, work, hobbies…what are the messages in those things? For our lives to be filled more and more with Jesus (His character, healing and power) we have to choose Him in our time and throughout our day. Inviting Him into our lives in a way that resets these generational patterns and heals our own lives from the patterns we are repeating requires more than a nod. Being filled with Jesus brings a whole new reservoir to draw from in our lives. When we don’t naturally possess kindness, patience, meekness, compassion or wisdom He brings those things to our lives because He is all of those things. This is not about a big set of rules or throwing guilt on you for what you listen to or watch or read. This is just the nuts and bolts…I could write you a sweeping and romantic notion of the rescue Jesus offers and leave it a notion that sounds nice but would that alone make a difference? For me, knowing Him…being near Him…is what fills me and gives me what I need which I would not ever have been able to conjure up on my own. We can make choices with our time and our focus that bring us closer to Him. It’s not about perfection by any means, but realizing that it’s only through Him we change and heal will take the pressure off. We can’t do it, but He can! So, my prayer is less of me and more of You. More of Him is a choice we make a million times a day in small ways that make a huge difference. We can keep listening to sad love songs that make us wistful for a different kind of marriage or we can find some music that will remind us that Jesus is the lover of our soul and with God all things are possible. We can keep reading or watching things that fill our mind with a message contrary to God’s best and His ways or we can choose to be entertained by things that don’t leave that feeling of “yuck” behind. We can discuss our challenges with people who will only say what we want to hear and give us permission to bail or we can confide in people who will speak truth in love. We can passively accept all of the life-shattering messages our culture sends our way each day or we can choose to look for ways to hear what God wants to say. We can stop the madness of it all long enough to give Jesus a chance to touch our lives and the lives of generations yet to come.
We can draw the line. Enough is enough.