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You Can Change Your Family’s Future

What do you think: Can we can change the course of our family’s history by the way we live? Is this true in your experience? I’m living out the struggle every day as my father’s primary caregiver while he is in the process of leaving this earth. Some days he responds to the pain poorly. A…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

What do you think: Can we can change the course of our family’s history by the way we live?

Is this true in your experience? I’m living out the struggle every day as my father’s primary caregiver while he is in the process of leaving this earth. Some days he responds to the pain poorly. And I watch myself and ask, “How would I do in his shoes? And what will my children learn from me?”

There is a cycle that tends to repeat itself from one generation to the next. A verse in Exodus talks about these ripple effects going out three or four generations. That’s sobering – my mistakes can impact my grandchildren and their children.

One of the abiding themes of my life is to pour into young people so that they might interrupt this cycle. Turn an abusive father’s heart toward God and he can choose to stop the abusive behavior.

I also look at my own children. A friend texted me this thought: that we can “sow into our parents what we’d like to reap from our own children as they watch our example.”

That’s profound. What I’m doing is hard work. My dad’s prospects are poor. I’m busy. It would be easier to leave his caregiving to the professionals. But we’re commanded to honor our parents and I’m trying to do that.

I’m seeing that there are patterns that my parents got from their parents. Some good, some bad. Many in my generation may have done a poor job of parenting their kids. But their past doesn’t have to be prologue. If they want to invest in their grandkids, maybe the best thing they can do is change the sometimes poor example they may be setting.

What do you think? What example did you receive from your parents and what do you hope to pass on to your kids and their kids? 

Comments (16)

  • Ah Seth…This post evokes so many emotions in me as I also was busy but became my mother’s primary caregiver while continuing to do my best as a parent to my kids, two of whom were still at home. I know there are things I would do differently but for the most part have few regrets. This is God’s work and in honoring God yiu are indeed sowing far more than you realize. Many many blessings to yiu and your family.

  • Hi Seth, I haven’t faced this situation with my parents as of yet, but I feel in my heart what I would/will do. Currently, I am in the midst of a situation where I am teaching the son of a dear friend who recently passed away. I am also teaching three of my children. This new addition has not been easy. It feels overwhelming most days. I feel guilty that my children are not getting as much of me as I wish they were. But I would not want to change anything. I know that we are the safety and comfort and routine that J needs right now. So everyday I ask God to help me stretch and be everything that everyone needs, only through Him. You’re doing a great job 🙂

  • Yes, Kathy – you did great. You prioritized this and it showed. Such a hard thing we have to do as caregivers. And so hard to do it when you’re alone. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of family and friends helping.

  • You set such a great example daddy to others.You are carrying alot because daddy there in no subtitude of parents. we daily praying for our grand father.May God be with him and give them good health. amen

  • Totally connected to this before I read the blog, just from seeing your example on Facebook of visiting your Dad regularly on, but still travelling recently with Karen. I am hoping to sow this into my family by breaking down fears and connecting authentically within the family. Being honest, yet loving. Clarifying instead of allowing the awkward to sit. Sitting with my Nana as she nears the end of life at age 90 and accepting that life will in fact end for each of us. Trying to love each of them where they are rather than who I want them to be.

  • Hi Seth, thank you for this post. As you know I’m very privilege to have a praying father and a man of strong faith. His legacy to me and us is to leave a legacy of faith and character. For me it is the best legacy he leaves behind and it is more worth than any money, gold or silver. I would love to leave that legacy behind as well. For honouring your parents you will never feel sorry – it’s the best thing you can do (that is also for your spiritual parents!) Be assured of our prayers. Stay Blessed my friend!

  • Hi Seth –
    My family is making some tough decisions right now about my dad as he begins to decline against his battle with Alzheimer’s. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this same thing. What does God have for us in this season of life and how can we best make an impact?
    Thank you for modeling, once again, and making a path for us to follow. 🙂

  • Hey Teri – always good to hear from you. I don’t know about “making a path” – I’m mostly just stumbling in the dark!

  • Seth- My initial reaction was to answer your two questions, Yes and Yes. But thinking about it a little more leads me to the conclusion that we don’t control that change (God does). We can INFLUENCE the change in our families with our actions and behavior, and I think God approves because we are being his instrument. This is hard for me to acknowledge. I want to pour effort in and see results (control things). Every family member we deal with has the God given free will to decide how they accept, deny, or change things. I think you should have some satisfaction in the influence you are having. I count myself as one of many that you are influencing. Thank you brother.

  • In the light of good and bad examples that I’ve seen in my folks and the good and bad that I’m sure I’ve presented to my kids, I think that if you are able to live with an awareness that your life is an example and try your best to be intentional with that you’re doing pretty good. When I am asked what my thoughts are on being a good father I usually tell people that your kids are going to pick up on who you are when they are not around. What you say to them they may or may not get, but who you are they most certainly will

  • This is absolutely true! Once we become aware that our actions DO MATTER, and that we are NOT doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents, we have power to change the course of history through our individual families and through pouring into the lives of others. The first step is awareness.

    If I don’t know what my parents did well or am afraid to look at where they fell short, I may accidentally copy the good things I got, along with copying what they did that I didn’t like. We have frequently told our kids that we want them to improve on what we did. That’s
    different than blaming them for their mistakes. When I see how I’m like my parents in ways I don’t like, my next step is to get the help I need to learn how to do it differently. That may look like talking to someone about it, diving into the work of God, learning it from church, or seeking counseling….or all of those things.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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