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Generation to Generation

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

–Psalm 145:4


One of my favorite TV shows is the PBS docuseries “Finding Your Roots,” which welcomes celebrity guests each episode to explore their genealogy and share with them some of their ancestral stories. The information is often quite emotional, as the guests discover connections and find out about histories that they never knew, and which have had influence on who they have become in the present.


I’ve long been fascinated by family histories, and have occasionally spent time looking up some of my own genealogy. Of course, I don’t have the team of professional researchers at my disposal, so the information comes in bits and pieces; but I have been blessed with family members who’ve taken on some of the work themselves and shared things I never knew.


I’ve recently been corresponding with my dad’s aunt, who shared some family tree information with me with some interesting details; I learned about my 3rd great-grandfather who died in a Confederate POW camp in Ohio in 1863; my 4th great-grandfather who served with Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812 at the age of 15; traced the migration of ancestors from Virginia in the 18th century to Tennessee, Arkansas, and eventually Texas over generations; and read newspaper clippings, obituaries, and census records detailing lives long since passed.


As I explored these stories, I was struck by how much they all witnessed and experienced over all these generations. My ancestors saw war and peace, presidents and politicians good and bad, times of prosperity and times of unimaginable hardship, life and death, joy and sadness—and all of those stories have brought me to the place where I am.


It’s humbling, and also a reminder when I get too focused on the immediate moment, that sometimes we need to take the long view of life. It can be tempting to get caught up in the here and now and forget that generations have gone before, generations who saw and experienced everything I have and more, and who endured with faith, with hope, and with love. Whatever is happening in the present moment, however important and weighty it may be, is only a part of a much larger story—the story of God with us, present through generations and in lives, guiding and shaping a narrative to which I have been invited to contribute. My part in the story, the times in which I live, are only a part of something much bigger. So, what will I contribute?


My hope and prayer is that I will pass on to future generations the enduring hope that in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us, and we are never alone. That kindness matters, that joy always come in the morning, and that the story always goes on—from now until we all gather in the Kingdom.


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