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  • Writer's picturetimothy martiny

Generational Brokenness


The repercussions of generational brokenness are widely disseminated throughout our culture.

I'm not talking about the generational curses 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; you should 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 generation after generation if someone doesn't decide to break the cycle at some point.

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

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

Most people get two chances at a parent-child relationship: one with the parents who raised them and the other with the children they then raise.

Often, they either seek to emulate or try to distance themselves from what they saw in their first parent-child relationship. Sometimes, this is a conscious decision, and 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 to not just one but six amazing children with whom God decided to bless me.

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. 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 and then paired up with my stepfather, who abandoned his wife and kids, including his special needs son, to be with my mom.

My mother's father had abandoned her and her mother when she was one year old. My grandmother remarried when my mother was a child, and that husband later divorced and left them as well.

My mother's biological father had been abandoned by his father at a young age. He 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 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 responsibility for the children he had helped create and was committed to walking alongside them and fulfilling his duties to love, care for, protect, and empower his offspring.

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

Yet something took root in me the day I learned 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 had little in the way of Godly influence in my life. At fifteen years old, I was on my own.

Many things contributed to my ending up in that position, more than I can discuss 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, who became pregnant when she was 16 years old.

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

Pretty much all I had ever seen 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.

When I found out I was going to become a father, I didn't have much to draw on.

But deep down in my soul, God moved.

Ephesians 1 says, "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 God's mercy, he chose me and my life 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.

I know what you're thinking, "children having children," and you're not wrong.

I still remember calling my grandpa to tell him that my girlfriend was pregnant and we would 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, I knew the responsibility to care for the child I had created was mine. Something deep inside me spoke, and in my mind, I said I wouldn't be like all the men I'd seen who had failed to care for their children.

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

For some reason, which I couldn't entirely 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 clear to me several years ago while serving at an orphanage.

I had been volunteering to teach 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 how you have treated them helps them see that a man can be good, and we are thankful for that."

To this day, I am humbled by what she said, yet I also realize its truth 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 nowhere to be found.

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

Looking back in hindsight at my 20 years as 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. God's 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 do grace, healing, and comfort abound.

Nothing is too broken, too hurt, or too lost to be redeemed by the saving grace of our heavenly father, who so loves us. Helping people understand that is what we, as missionaries, are working to accomplish through our ministry in Guatemala.

In scripture, we read in Romans 8:1 that, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." and 2 Corinthians 2:17 says "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

It doesn't matter where we come from, what our family is, or the sins that have been committed in our lives; through Christ, we can be redeemed in ways that break the cycles of brokenness and empower us to build a legacy of love, care, and responsibility.

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