And You Thought Your Family Was Nuts {Book Club}

The subtitle of today’s chapter is one for each of us: breaking the power of the past. Because no matter whether your past was awful, had normal ups and downs, or idyllic, it has formed you and has hidden power that needs to be addressed (or needed to be addressed).

I realized this was for everyone when I had a teammate who had never had much go wrong in life. She grew up in a wonderfully stable family, loving siblings, went off to college (which was fun and easy), met the love of her life, they got married, had no problems getting pregnant and starting a family. It really was a wonderful life! Which on the one hand is great, but the unforeseen pitfall was that when “bad stuff” started to happen, she was completely thrown for a loop, unprepared to handle it, and it did a number on her and her faith.

Now, do I wish she’d had a rougher childhood so that she’d be better prepared for tragedy? No. But my point is, we all have been informed and formed by our past and the more we understand how, the more God can heal, grow, and cheer for us.

I appreciated how Scazzero started this chapter by saying: “Emotionally healthy spirituality is about reality, not denial or illusion. It is about embracing God’s choice to birth us into a particular family, in a particular place, at a particular moment in history.” (from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero). He roots us firmly in the family we were born into. This past week I had lunch with someone I’ve known most of my life and I left it feeling very guilty. Our lives could not have been more different and I wondered why I was born into the family I was and she was born into the family she was. Both set us up on different paths.

I need to stop here and move on to the chapter, but my time with her disturbed me greatly and stirred up guilt over privilege. So, when I read the line I quoted above, I know God wants me, too, to embrace my reality. I’m just not sure what exactly this means. Okay, let’s talk about this more in the comments.

Have you done a genogram? Oh, man, this just came back to me, but one of the projects for my masters degree was on how our family of origin influenced us on teams that serve cross-culturally. I designed a  three full day training. Maybe I should pull it out and look at it! Blast from the, wait for it, past! 🙂

In this chapter it helped me to see how the author fleshed out the generational patterns from Abraham to Joseph. Kind of puts perspective on God taking Abraham out to look at the night sky and saying his descendants were to be as numerous as the stars … and “I’m going to start with your broken family!” I hope you felt a bit braver about looking at the good and hard patterns in your family.

What did you think of the 10 Commandments? What were some of the commandments from your family? How about from the team you are a part of now? Every system is going to have commandments, so the goal isn’t to do away with them! But to know what they are and then to evaluate if they need to be changed for healthier ones.

When Scazzero wrote about compartmentalization, I thought of us in our line of work. We’ve talked about it before, but the pressures we feel to present one type of face to supporters compared to some of the boring realities we function in. Or the messages we have picked up on to work, work, work for our keep so that people “see results” and will keep supporting us. I also understand it’s okay to have different levels of connection and information and that not everyone is granted the same level of access. But when we stay so busy no one has access to how we really are, that’s a problem.

There are many directions we could go in the comments! How has your past formed you (both good and hard stuff)? See you soon …


P.S. Next week is chapter 6 in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

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  1. Rachel October 21, 2015

    I had not heard of genograms before this. I really want to do one. I have no idea where to start, but I think it would help to identify some of the patterns I have brought with me from my family.

    I have considered the similarities between Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and his wives. I always think, Didn’t they see their fathers’ mistakes? Didn’t they see the consequences? I find it much easier to identify the patterns in other people’s families than in my own. But as he says, “Family patterns from the past are played out in our present relationships without us necessarily being aware of it.” It will take work to analyze negative patterns passed down to me.

    Positive patterns are easier to identify because we talked about them a lot. My parents’ keyword was often “intentionality.” I think that they both didn’t want to continue certain patterns from their families of origin, and they knew that they would have to break them on purpose (though I’d be surprised if they were successful in all areas). Discipline with intentionality. Show grace with intentionality. Follow Jesus with intentionality. But before we can change things intentionally, we have to identify them!

  2. Another anonymous October 23, 2015

    There is a lot in this chapter:
    First, the author’s genogram is exactly my husband’s, if you take away the Italian part. And my husband doesn’t have/acknowledge/express emotions. But this isn’t about him; just a very interesting observation for me, and it gives me a lot to think about.

    As for me, I can’t say that I have made it, that I have an emotionally healthy spirituality, but really, I don’t think I have problems knowing and expressing my own emotions. This part “I would allow myself to feel emotion before God. Then I would journal” is what I already do. I’m sure there will be more for me later on in this book, and maybe I just have to look deeper, but that’s what I’m thinking now. I guess I’m like the friend in this article: “She grew up in a wonderfully stable family, loving siblings, went off to college (which was fun and easy), met the love of her life, they got married, had no problems getting pregnant and starting a family. It really was a wonderful life!” (But I have definitely worked through hard stuff now.)

    Also, what Rachel said above about seeing the patterns in other families is definitely true! I’m trying to think about what is there in my own family of origin, and it’s taking a lot of work. Those commandments… what were they for us? So, I’m still processing that, for sure.

    May I go back to the first chapter? In the example of having guests over when they didn’t really want to, what would have been the healthy way to handle that? Not invite them, right? What about when we really don’t feel like being hospitable, but there’s no choice? Guests have to be hosted for several weeks. I have no emotional reserves for that, and I can go through the motions, but I know they see through to the actual emotions I’m feeling. No, we didn’t invite them, but we also didn’t have an option of telling them not to come. What then?

    1. Another anonymous October 23, 2015

      Oops. I didn’t mean to make that anonymous. My computer remembered how I signed in before. Maybe it’s better to let it stay that way, though. I will rejoin conversations here as my usual self later. 🙂

  3. Amanda October 24, 2015

    I’ve got a fabulous story to put here! I wanted to join this book club and when I found out the ebook was on sale I was super excited and bought it only for Kindle to lose it in cyber-space. Then I headed out for a big conference. It was my first time traveling alone, the first time I was away from my kids since my second son was born and I didn’t even have the book I was going to read. And then I meet my roommate for the conference and she pulls out this stack of books and what should be on the top of the pile but Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. When she heard my story she was more than willing to let me borrow it until she needed it for a presentation she was making. And a few hours before she needed it back my Kindle edition finally appeared! So, here I am. All caught up and loving this book!

    And there is so much to talk about! I should have made a genogram while I was traveling. Now I’m home and I’m worried my 8 year old will find it and ask too many questions. I can see a few patterns though. Some we’ve beaten, some we’re still working on. Some, like my tendency to let guilt be my motivating drive in life, are still real problems. Which makes me think of Mae’s story (it just appeared in my inbox). I have a tendency to let the constant guilt of disappointing others define me and my story. Knowing I’m not good enough for them and never will be good enough suffocates me and my motivation to do anything. But I don’t have to live with that. Jesus can totally take me above and beyond. I’m not sure how that looks practically but I’m encouraged that it’s possible.

  4. Rankin October 24, 2015

    I could just stop at the sentence, “embracing God’s choice to birth us into a particular family, in a particular place, at a particular moment in history.”  Sometimes accepting this isn’t too hard, but other times? It is hard!  I don’t want to have a pity party here, but that sentence is a challenge for me!

    I grew up in a family where we had many unhealthy rules, and I have already seen how some of them have played out in my life.  I am thankful though for the patterns that I have been able to break, and for the ones that the Father is going to continue to break in my life.

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