Know Your Family

Recently I was sitting in an office waiting for an appointment. I picked up a magazine and was flipping through it. I ran across an article encouraging people to research their family history. It was pressing the point that your genealogy is important. If you get to digging around in your history and find out who your great-great-grandparents were and where your aunts and uncles lived, you’ll probably find pictures. You may find great accomplishments or significant failures. You may come across health issues they had, disappointments they experienced, funny things, and heart-breaking things. The good, the bad, and occasionally the ugly.

For a variety of reasons, it is important to have some sense of where you came from and who your people were, and it is not always easy to find. The truth is, some folks don’t want to know who their family was. Why? Well, there are some folks who may not like what they find. Other folks don’t want to know because they don’t like the family that they do know. Still, if you have some time to ramble around through your history, it might be an exciting and rewarding journey. Personally, I have not gotten into genealogy a great deal. About as far as I have looked is to get in contact with my great-great-grandparents. No, I didn’t know them but I know stuff about them. Beyond that, I have had some of my own kinfolks who spent a great deal of time, effort, and even money tracing my mother’s lineage all the way back to Founding Fathers here in the U.S. of A.

For you and for those who come after you, it may be a worthwhile venture to spend some time walking through your past as you journey into your future. Of course, if you are related to Abraham, David, Jonah, or some of the apostles, the Bible serves as a great book to trace a lot of your heritage, but there are not many of us who connect that far back. At the same time as you think about that, you know that there are some Bible characters to whom you would just as soon not be connected. The article I was reading didn’t go into all of this, but let me just point out some things that you might find if you began to look into the folks that make up your family tree.

You may find some folks who failed. In fact, you may even find some notorious kinds of folks, some legendary kinds of folks, especially in a local setting. The folks who just messed up. Maybe they did dumb things or said dumb things or just went crazy, but they are remembered because of their great failures. Before you get too upset with those folks, just remember that in a sense, that’s all of us. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Every one of us has sinned. So many times I think about one of our workers in one of our prisons as I was visiting there this past year. He made the observation and the comment, “What if you were constantly thought of and remembered for the worst thing you ever did?” He was talking about the inmates in that facility, each of them marked and known by at least one of the worst things they ever did. It’s before them every day and everybody around them and people who don’t even see them. What if that was the information provided to everybody around you? Every day you brought about the terrible pain you thought and did and said about it. It’s kind of a bad deal, isn’t it? Sometimes people would find that our past has a historical mark beside it that makes everybody think that’s who they were and all they ever did. They failed. They may have stolen something, killed someone, ruined somebody’s life, gone to prison, or died themselves in a terrible way as they hurt somebody and now everybody remembers that act. You may find in your family tree that some have failed. Maybe you never knew them and you don’t know much about them. You might do well to look at them through eyes of grace.

You may find some folks who flourished. It’s not unusual to find faithful, consistent, hardworking people who just simply got up each day and faced life. You will find some of those people whose names may not be known far and wide, but they courageously anchored their lives to faith and faithfulness and pressed forward day by day into the troubles of life and continued to move forward even in the face of hurt and hardship. Those kind of folks you need to know. Even though you may have never have heard their voice or seen their smile, your family heritage is enriched by them. Courageously they lived, and they can be celebrated even now. You may find them faithful in their church, faithful in their community, and faithful to their country. Strong, sturdy, simple, caring people. They flourished and made this world a better place.

You may find some folks who failed and then flourished. No doubt, you may find as most of us would some folks who failed and then flourished by God’s grace, love, and mercy. That may be the bulk of the folks we find that make up the largest number of who we are. Folks who have failed but didn’t stay down and got up, began to press forward, and found faith flourishing in their lives and hope on the horizon of life as they lived for the Lord and made a difference even though they may have fallen in the past.

They did not and neither do we need to stop at the pits of pain, places along the pathway of life that would stymie you, stop you, back you up, shut you down. It could be bankruptcy or divorce, an injury or lost job. It can be an embarrassment or an overall heartbreaking failure. Don’t stop there. You can get back up and move forward. God is not through with you. Just like He picked up one after another after another when He was walking the paths around the Holy Land in His day, He comes along now and touches lives and renews them, reinvigorates them, enables them to get up and go forward today. He may be writing the history at which future generations will look back and be encouraged. Leave a marker for them. Maybe you’ve failed but then you flourished.  Maybe you dropped out of church and find it hard to get up and go back and sing and sit and share and you just wonder how that will all be. Let God guide you and get up and face it even this week. Maybe you have had a broken relationship with a friend or a family member and it has brought pain to your heart for days or weeks or maybe even years. Why not today look for that path that God would give you to reestablish that relationship and enable you to be strong and blessed again? Today is the day that you not only can find some of the folks in your family failed and then flourished who will write the story for people who will come and look back and say, “My grandmother/grandfather…,” and tell the story of not your failures but your flourishing in spite of your failures.

The author can be contacted at

Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer