Going through some small group material with the high school students in our church last night I read something that really caused me to stop and consider my upbringing. “God put you in the family that you are in so that He could shape you into the person He wants you to be.” This idea seemed like a pretty basic fact (if you believe that God is in control of all areas of your life), but as I thought more about the ways that my family upbringing shaped my life, I began to consider how my life was shaped in some unfavorable ways by my family upbringing.
Every person inherits traits and attributes from their parents. We inherit physical traits such as height or hair color, and we also “inherit” learned behaviors such as spending habits, dietary choices, or communication tendencies, etc. . Some of these traits we love, but others we cannot stand. “We can’t choose our families, but we can choose how to respond to them.” This is another quote from the small group material that caused me to consider how I have reacted to the traits I have inherited. I realized that most of the traits that I inherited from my family growing up I embrace, or at least I am indifferent toward, however there are some traits that I actively and intentionally fight against having and displaying. If I am honest, these are traits that I simply cannot stand. When I see them in myself I cringe because it seems that if I am not actively fighting to avoid such behavior it will become my default action or nature which would in turn make me the same person as my parents. This is an absurd notion, but it haunts me nonetheless. I should also mention that in the impossible event that I become a complete mirror image of my parents, it would (in most respects) be an honorable accomplishment.
The fight between my inherited traits (and nature) persists nonetheless though. It was in considering this struggle between my inherited nature and my intended nature that God revealed to me the blessing it is to inherit even the undesirable traits.
I think it is the traits that we can’t stand that God uses the most to bring us to be like Him.
I realized that in my life the inherited traits that I fight against most are the traits that seem to be the least Christ like. These traits that bother me so much point to a conflict of Christ-like behavior and worldly behavior. I strive to live and be like Jesus in all areas of my life and these bothersome inherited traits keep me from doing so. I am bothered by the inherited traits so much that I want to be different and I spend concentrated time and effort actively trying to be different (or better). Unbeknownst to myself sometimes, I am in fact fighting to be more Christ-like in my behavior in these areas.
In this fight it is most beneficial to understand that Jesus wants us to fight to be more like Him in all the areas of our lives, not just the ones that do not suit our preferences. Realizing that in some areas of my life I am desperately fighting to be more like Jesus helps me to realize that I should be bringing that same fight (the fight for holiness) into the areas of my life that suit my preferences, but are not necessarily the most God honoring.
After verbally processing all of this with my wife last night I realized that it was the areas of my family upbringing that were less than perfect or even painful at times that help me to know how to fight for holiness in all areas of my life. And so the original statement was proven true. “God put you in the family that you are in so that He could shape you into the person He wants you to be.”
I want it to be abundantly clear that I am in no way complaining about my parents or family. I am very grateful to have two wonderful parents that I love and who love each other. I was also blessed to have two great older brothers that taught me more than I would be able to give them credit for. I love my family and would not change a thing about our life together.