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Generational Brokenness

Generational brokenness in Guatemala.

The repercussions of generational brokenness are widely disseminated in just about every culture.

I’m not talking about the generational curses that are referred to in the Bible.

I’m talking about a man who abandons his family because his father left him. I’m talking about a woman who cheats on her husband because her mother cheated on her father. I’m talking about someone becoming an abusive spouse because that is what was modeled for them in their childhood. I’m talking about people who delve into drugs and alcohol because the authority figures in their lives modeled that for them.

Generational Brokenness is everywhere you look, if only you will take the time to see it.

I’ve seen it in my family, and I see it in the families of those I serve.

It can and will perpetuate for generation after generation if someone, at some time, doesn’t make a decision to break the cycle.

This Father’s Day, as I think about how and why I became a father. I realize that for me, the act of choosing to become a father to my daughter, I was the breaking of a cycle of fatherlessness that had haunted my family for generations.

Each of us brings to our relationships our expectations and hopes of what it will be like. For many, they often reflect the relationships they saw of the people who raised them.

Most everyone gets two chances at a parent-child relationship, one with the parents who raised them, and the other with the children they then raise. Often times, they either seek to emulate, or they try to distance themselves from what they saw in their first parent-child relationship. Sometimes it is a conscious decision, sometimes it is not.

The story of how I became a father is probably not as important as that I chose to be a father, a father to not just one, but six amazing children which God decided to bless me with.

I don’t know your story and history, but I know mine, and I know that my decision to be a father had nothing to do with what I had seen about fatherhood in my life.

Generational Brokenness in relation to fatherhood was strong in my family.

My mother left my bio-father when I was five because of his alcoholism. Though I was incapable of understanding what was going on at the time, being separated from my father had a profound impact on my life. I know she made the right choice as the addiction controlled and dominated his life to the point that he acted in dangerous ways and it would end up costing him his first three marriages before he finally committed to getting sober and abstaining from alcohol.

My mother was single for a time and then paired up with my step-father.

Her father had abandoned her and her mother when she was one year old. My grandmother remarried when my mother was a child but her step father left a few years later.

My mother’s biological father had been abandoned by his father at a young age and was raised by his mother and sister.

Four generations of men who one after the other failed to grasp and understand in any meaningful fashion the role of a father in the lives of the children they so readily create, yet willfully discard.

Four families of children growing up without their father to lead and guide them in what it means to have a father, be a husband, or to act like a man. Generational Brokenness at its finest.

100 years of broken lives upon broken lives. Until God saw fit to change it.

I didn’t really know what it meant to be a father who took seriously the responsibility of the children he played a part in creating and who was committed to walking alongside them fulfilling his duties to love, care, protect and empower his offspring.

In fact, most of my life, I saw the exact opposite.

Yet something took root in me the day I found out I was to become a father.

I wish I could tell you that this is a story of me breaking every cycle of sin and correcting every generational mistake that beset my family, but it is not.

I left home at a young age and didn’t have much in the way of Godly influence in my life. At fifteen years old, I was on my own.

Many things played into me ending up in that position, more than I can get into here, but suffice it to say that not only did I not have Godly people speaking into my life, but I had a great many voices guiding me towards choices and decisions that were clearly not in line with what I now understand to be God’s plan for marriage, relationships and sex.

I got into a relationship with my girlfriend and at 16 years old, she became pregnant.

16 years old, away from home and faced with a big decision.

Pretty much all I had ever seen in my life were examples of men who neglected their responsibility as a father. Men who abandoned their families, wives who left their husbands, men who impregnated women and never made any effort to raise or be responsible for their children.

I didn’t have a lot to draw on at that moment when I found out I was going to become a father.

But deep down in my soul, God moved.

Ephesians 1 tells us:

“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Somehow for reasons I can’t even begin to describe as anything other than the mercy of God, he chose me and my life at that moment as the time and place to break the cycle.

He placed in my heart of hearts the desire to love, protect, and raise my child and to know without a shadow of a doubt what my responsibility was.

Why did he do that for me and not for my father, grandfather and great grandfather? I do not know, but we can read in John 9 and the story of Jesus healing the blind man, that it was not that the blind man or his parents had sinned, but that the “works of God might be displayed in him.” God sometimes always brokenness to persist so that he might be glorified when he heals it.

I know what you’re thinking, “children having children,” and you’re not wrong.

I still remember calling up my grandpa to tell him that my girlfriend was pregnant and that we were going to get married. He laughed at me and hung up the phone.

I had no idea what I was in store for, but I didn’t care. Somehow, someway I knew the responsibility to care for the child that I had created was mine. Something deep inside of me spoke, and in the back of my mind, I said I wasn’t going to be like all the men I’d seen who had failed to care for their children.

At that moment, the generational brokenness was broken, and the cycle was changed.

For some reason, which I couldn’t explain, and which made no sense to many people at the time, I was stepping up.

Things are more apparent to me now after being a father for over 20 years. I see the saving grace in what God did to protect me from falling into the broken cycle of fatherly neglect that had haunted my family for generations.

It was about my children and me, but it was about so much more than that. It was about God using where I had come from and what he had made me into, a father who cared for his children, as a testimony to others who suffer from the same generational brokenness, to show that change is possible.

God made this made clear to me several years ago while I was serving at an orphanage.

I had been volunteering teaching woodworking to teenage girls for several months when one of the directors came up to me and said:

“Tim, I want to thank you for coming here, this is what the girls really need.”

I thought she was talking about my woodworking skills.

“I’m not talking about your carpentry.” She quickly corrected me.

“I’m talking about you being here as a man, as a father, as someone who loves his wife and children, treats them with respect and shows respect to the girls in the orphanage.”

“Most of them have had difficult experiences and been mistreated by men. So for them to see the way you have treated them, helps them to see that a man can be good, and for that we are thankful.”

To this day, I am humbled by what she said, yet I also realize the truth of it and have seen this play out in many aspects of our ministry.

Many of the 150 children who attend afternoon programs at our two community centers in Guatemala come from families that suffer from the same generational brokenness of fatherlessness that I did. Their fathers are simply nowhere to be found.

I understand what that is like in a way that many others do not. My life and experiences and the history of my family give me perspective into that unique brokenness. Yet I also understand that the cycle can be broken. I know that God is there for each and every one of our students who does not have a father figure in their lives and I know that through his power and his power alone, those bonds can be broken.

Looking back in hindsight at 20 years of being a father, I can see that I’ve made a lot of mistakes for which I am sure my kids will judge me. But thanks to the saving grace and love of our father, at least I was there to make those mistakes, and for that I am grateful.

I am blessed to be a part of something bigger than myself and my story. Gods healing me from the generational brokenness of fatherlessness has given me a deep faith, a faith that says that what he has done for me, he can and will do for others, for where sin, brokenness and hurt abound, so too does grace, healing and comfort abound.

Nothing is too broken, too hurt, too lost that it cannot be redeemed by the saving grace of our heavenly father who so loves us. Helping people understand this is what we as missionaries are working to accomplish through our ministry in Guatemala.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 2:17

Will you partner with us to raise up the young boys in our ministry to be the fathers that their future children need them to be?

Give now in a way that lasts for eternity

Generational Brokenness
Timothy Martiny
Timothy Martiny
Missionary in Guatemala serving the orphaned, vulnerable and disabled.