“Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan. Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah and Abram (that is, Abraham). The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael.” (1 Chronicles 1:20-28)
That’s a thriller of an intro, isn’t it? How many of us have fallen asleep in the middle of reading a Biblical genealogy? Or, worse, have been asked to read one aloud? Good luck pronouncing ‘Arphaxad’ and ‘Reu’! Yet, the Bible is littered with these Hebrew genealogies. They are the family records of the nation of Israel, and held significant importance to them in being able to prove their descendance from Abraham with whom God made covenant. They are not just extra words or filler, they are intentional, as is all Scripture. (see 2 Timothy 3:16) These genealogies represent the significance of where we come from as individuals, and that resonated in my life this week as we buried my paternal grandmother.
As her grandchildren, we always knew her as “Grammy.” She battled Alzheimer’s for almost two decades. As of eleven years ago, she no longer recognized her grandchildren, so most of my memories of who she was are seen through my childhood eyes. My father’s family lived in Hong Kong for a decade in his youth, and her home was decorated with the many beautiful things they collected while they were there. I always had the impression she lived in an Asian museum of sorts. She was a golfer. She was an excellent Bridge player and instructor. She loved to travel. She had an Atari. These are some of the things of Grammy I remember from my childhood. I have to admit that I didn’t concentrate on more intimate details of my grandparents until I was older and less full of being a kid, and by then it was too late to get to know my Grammy better face to face.
Hard to believe that little one is my grandmother, front and center and very adorable. Her parents died when she was seven years old, and she had a very difficult childhood after their death. She was separated from her siblings for a couple of years, and her caregivers were not loving people based on impressions and stories she related to her children. As a result, it is not a stretch to believe that she never really understood how a healthy family unit functioned. She made choices and mistakes in life that hurt her husband and children. But, she was also resilient and determined. She was the Valedictorian of her high school class and then a stewardess for Pan Am airlines, a career that she took great pride in.
This is all interesting stuff for me, but how does knowing all of this really affect who I am? What do genealogies have to do with us all?
As I took a tour of my family history in Erie, Pennsylvania this week, I was impressed with the impact my ancestors have made on my life, both directly and even more so indirectly. Directly like in the physical qualities I inherited from them, my eyes or my hair. Indirectly they have influenced me through the relationships they had with the people I do know and the things that I have learned from those relationships. You can’t escape your roots, because they are part of who you are. This was illustrated perfectly in the image of this beautiful Willow tree growing in the yard of one of my great grandparents’ former homes.
The trunk was five or six feet wide.
Having grown up amongst the mammoth Live Oaks and Magnolias of the south, I miss being surrounded by these solid creatures.
So, I took a bunch of pictures of a big tree because I’m a little starved for seeing them. Bear with me.
Without roots, there is not a trunk, nor can there be branches. The roots feed the whole tree.
I can’t help but feel like I come from some of those seriously twisted and bent branches sometimes. I think a lot of us do. We’re human.
As hard as it is to believe, though, I am not defined by my gnarled, misshapen branches because I have a loving gardener. As a believer and follower of Christ, my family tree is rooted in this truth, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1) As such, He can take all of my bent and twisted branches and they can be brought together into something beautiful, something that can one day be called an “oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3) That is what God desires all of our family trees to look like, a display of His splendor. There is a lot to be said for getting in touch with our roots, and I said a lot! Thanks for sticking this one out to the end.