Dr. Murray Bowen introduced the family system theory suggesting that individuals can’t be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as a part of their family. According to Bowen, a family is an emotional system in which each member has a role to play and rules to respect. Members of the system are expected to respond to each other in a certain way according to their position, which is determined by relationship agreements within the boundaries of the system. One of the best ways to understand how the emotional system operates in our family is to put together our family genogram; it’s a pictorial display of our family relationships.
Every family has a cast of characters with colorful personalities and stories. They matter; we see glimpses of ourselves in them, our talents, our tendencies, and some of our troubles. Puzzle pieces, when put together, make a family portrait.
During this season of at home with family and friends, take time together and create your family tree. Tell your loved one your personal stories of growing up, what your dreams were and are, share your story of coming to know Jesus, and write them down. You might not think your stories are significant, but it may be to a loved one later. I’ll share an example that was particularly dear to me recently. I recently had the privilege of being on the Berry College campus in Rome, Georgia, and I remembered that my mother (passed away 12 years ago) was offered a full scholarship on August 8, 1952. When she told me, I asked her how she remembered the exact day, and she said because it was her wedding day to my Dad. Being on the campus gave rise to a sweet emotion, a closeness to my Mom, as well as a connection to the campus.
Gifts under the tree are lovely, but I don’t remember what I received five years ago, much less ten years ago. I do remember that my Mom was offered a scholarship on her wedding day to Berry University. So this season give a gift of memories, a gift that helps us understand each other, which will connect us emotionally. My suggestion is, to begin with, a genogram or family tree of three generations, which asks and shares the answer to a few questions:
- Where did they come from?
- Who were you close to growing up?
- What positive traits are in your generations?
- What positive traits/patterns did you develop, and who did you learn them from?
- Who met your core relationship needs in your family?
Acceptance ____________________ Respect________________________________
Appreciation ____________________. Security _______________________________
Approval ______________________ Support ________________________________
- How did your family communicate?
- Who in your family history is your spouse most like?
- What significant events shaped your family?
- What change did these events bring about in your family and relationships?
- What would you have done differently?
- What are three things that have brought you joy in your family?
- What was their faith?
Jesus’ Family Story
Not all of our family stories are sweet, but neither were those of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Born to an unwed mother, in a stable, with an earthly step Father, grew up in a blended family, with half brothers and sisters that thought he was crazy, and a stepfather that probably died when he was a young man. He began a revolution and was left to die a horrific death on the cross. What didn’t appear significant to most at that time has changed the world and our place in eternity. None of our families are perfect. It’s where we come from; they shape us, but we must choose who we become. Jesus’s birth and death on the cross provided us a way to become a part of a shared legacy in His family tree.
What will your family story tell? If you haven’t chosen Jesus, will you choose Him now? Will you lead your family, spouse and children to a shared family legacy of intimately knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior this Christmas season?
Lisa May is Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida. She can be reached at [email protected] or by mail at 5110 N. Federal Hwy. Suite 102, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308