Counseling and psychological issues are often traced back to family of origin issues, so that much is made of “Growing up, my father did this, and so now I have this issue.” When examined correctly, dealing with family of origin issues can be very meaningful.
Furthermore, allow me to preface this by noting that I personally have tremendous family of origin issues, so please do not read blasé ignorance into what I am saying.
As always, let us look to the Bible for insight.
1 Kings 19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
When it comes to family of origin issues, and specifically daddy issues and mommy issues, we cannot be too light, dismissing them as if there is nothing to them. As seen in this passage concerning Elijah, family of origin issues are often times a very real struggle for people, and even people who are walking closely with the Lord, and are being used by Him in mighty ways. (Recall here that Elijah has just come down from the mountaintop experience with the prophets of Baal.) However, note that as Elijah suffers through his depression, one of the things that is ailing him is the thought that “I’m just like my dad and his dad before him.” The implication is clear: he wanted to be “better than his fathers”.
The Old Testament is replete with generational issues. A cursory reading of any of the historical books reveals phrases such as “did what their fathers did” or “did not depart from the sins of their fathers”. The tendency to follow in the footsteps of learned behavior from our parents is very real. However, through 1 and 2 Kings, the fact that the sinful behaviors and idolatry were passed down to them from their father, is never an excuse or mitigating circumstance in the sins of the sons. We may learn sinful habits and behaviors from our parents, but we are still responsible and culpable for them. We are not only victims, though at times we are exactly that, but we are also responders who respond rightly or respond sinfully.
I think you can responsibly draw out from the Bible some information about Timothy’s family of origin issues:
Acts 16:1-3: 1Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
- Timothy’s mom is described as a Jewish believer.
- His dad is described as a Greek (and not mentioned at all in 2 Timothy 1). The implication is that he is not a believer.
- His family of origin was a stumbling block to those around him.
- Timothy was struggling with fear of those around him, lack of confidence, and a need to lead like he was called to do (issues very symptomatic of folks with “daddy issues”).
And here are Paul’s words to him in 2 Timothy 1:5-12:
5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
Paul’s counsel to Timothy is a reminder of the Gospel and a very God-centered, lofty view of our Creator. As if to say, “Timothy, remember your heavenly Father!”
So, as we deal with our own family of origin issues, let us make sure to do it through the Gospel. True, maybe we inherited some intergenerational issues from our parents, but let’s acknowledge that the issue goes back to our first father Adam who started off on the wrong course of sin and death. Furthermore, let us remember that in the Cross of Christ, we are set free from sin and made into new creations. Let us delve into issues of upbringing. But let’s make sure that those issues are dealt with as we deal with all things…through the Gospel.