You’ve stopped on the breakneck journey of life to read this post, and I’m glad you did. For the moment you’re here, I want you to set down the two suitcases you have in your hands – the one called Father, and the other called Mom.
I want you to set them aside and hear something true.
Every person on this earth has parents, whether that term refers simply to their biological origins or if it has the deeper relational meaning of a family tie. You have a mother and dad. Some of you don’t know either of them. Some of you lost one to death or divorce. Some of you were hurt by them, abused by them, or neglected by them. Some feel you can’t meet their expectations. Some of you were babied and enabled by them.
Our parents have a profound effect on our lives, and their choices have the power to influence us for years to come.
But dear girl, your life is not the sum of your parents’ failure or success.
You are neither a trophy nor a disappointment.
Because your identity is not based on your last name or your parents’ actions. They are imperfect people, sinners just like you and me. But their flaws should not dictate our value, or we will go through life measuring our worth against the opinions of people instead of the opinion of God.
Some of us had parents who did things well: they loved us, they trained us, they taught us, they cared about us. But those of us with this story carry another burden: the burden of expectation. Just as some carry the weight of their parents’ poor decisions or disapproval, others carry the weight of comparison. They think their marriage is supposed to look just like their parents’ did. They think their lives, homes, and children are supposed to be just like their childhood. And when it isn’t – as most assuredly will be the case – they are assaulted with discontent and disillusionment.
Dear girl, your experiences are real, no matter how painful or how wonderful they were. But our experiences are not an excuse to shackle ourselves to a life lived below what God has promised.
What this means for you is this: your parents’ actions and expectations have no hold over you.
But God has a hold on you.
I had wonderful parents and I think they did almost everything right. But they weren’t perfect. And not surprisingly, their parents weren’t perfect either. If we let the previous generation dictate our ability to face life with faith and courage, we will live shortchanged lives. And worst of all, we will hand those suitcases to our children for them to carry for years to come.
Dear girl, you are not your mother’s approval. You are not your father’s neglect. You may not have your parents’ love story, their house, their jobs or their number of children.
Your story is specific to you and God. Don’t let your past – however bad or good – dictate your future.
Do we ignore the past? No. We accept it, we learn from it, and we lay it on the altar as a sacrifice of praise.
But where is worship in a father’s leaving?
How can I praise God for a mother’s anger?
The same way Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” as he hung beaten and vulnerable before a hateful world. Do you think it was hard? Do you think it was hard to love those who called him a failure for not coming down from the cross?
For failing to save their nation?
For being the ‘illegitimate’ son of a nothing girl in Nazareth?
Dear girl, your past is real, but so is your God. When you believe your past is too great for God to conquer, you are refusing to have faith in His ability and His love.
God doesn’t promise to change your parents or your past. But He promises to be present with you (Ex. 33:14).
Leaving Him behind will only perpetuate the failures you hate so much. He is the difference maker (Matt. 19:26). He is the unity of good marriages (Eph. 5:22-25). He is the Guide to good parenting (Prov. 22:6). Don’t let others’ failures make you doubt God’s promises. Don’t let the abuse of God’s standards make you disbelieve their proper and righteous use.
You can choose what pen writes your story: the hand of the past, or the hand of God’s presence.
This is a choice of faith, and it results in freedom.
So don’t conceal your story, but live it to the full, telling the generation to come not of your baggage and burdens – but of ‘the strength and wondrous work the Lord has done’ (Psalm 78:4). Come to know and believe the love that God has for you (1 John 4:16). And remember that God, the perfect Father, is present where every human love fails.
“The Lord your God is in your midst; a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zeph. 3:17)
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