Defying Destiny

Ok… I will hedge this a bit and say that anyone of a particularly Calvinist bent may find a lot to argue with on this post.

Anyway, in the West, we are the recipients of an ingrained belief in “destiny.” We have an endless fountain of tragic stories where the protagonist is destined for failure but can’t see it himself or herself. And we cringe and wince as each choice brings that person closer and closer to their own demise, even as they struggle and fight against it.

And, oddly enough, Americans really like the idea of being “destined.” Well, we like the idea of being destined for greatness. It’s even built into the American ideal of being the exceptional people, a new Israel, if you will.

But we often overlook all of those young people or families “destined” for failure. We tend to write them off as lost causes or stubborn. And we watch the tragedy unfold as each choice leads them closer to their own suffering one step at a time.

Do we ever stop to wonder if destiny is really a thing?

I only bring this up because I have seen so many people, by the grace of God, manage to break free of their bonds and find freedom from their “destiny.” I have watched people destined for tragedy manage to eke out a comedy at the very end. What might have been a Eurydice becomes a Comedy of Errors, if you will.

Consider what we call prophecy in the Hebrew Bible. It’s not prophecy in the Greek sense. Biblical prophecy always has a choice. It’s almost as if there is a giant, “but” standing over each pronouncement of catastrophe. God sends a prophet with a message of destruction, and leaves room for a big ole “but if you repent, this could all be avoided.” The biggest case-in-point Jonah. He flees from Ninevah not because he was scared of the people, but, because he knew God would forgive them. (Jonah 3.10-4.3) Jonah’s message to the city had been, “You people have 40 days left, you’re toast!” Sounds pretty definite and concrete. And yet, when Ninevah from the top down repented, God removed the punishment. The pronouncement had an implied “but” that repentance would change the outcome.

Now, is this how it works in every case? No. But we have all seen people shake off what weighed them down and found peace in God’s forgiveness and strength.

So what’s this got to do with your family? Well, many of us have something called family curses. These are behaviors or issues that plague generations because they are passed on from parent to child. These are things like anger, bitterness, apathy, perfectionism, alcoholism, poverty, abuse… In some ways we’ve all internalized that if you come from a background with these things, you’re almost “destined” to repeat them.

How do you break free? Well, let’s learn from the Ninevites… A phrase that even I wouldn’t have seen coming. Anyway, first, the Ninevites recognized their problem. They realized that Jonah was right – their lifestyle did justify their downfall. The Assyrians, by all accounts, were ruthless conquerors and quite violent. Then, the Assyrians turned to God, they showed through their actions and words that they acknowledged their situation and asked for forgiveness. Then, God acted and forgave, leading the people to change their actions.

Ok, so it may not be that easy. Breaking free of something ingrained is difficult. But we don’t have to walk down life’s road with the tragic finality of Oedipus or Julius Caesar. We can look to God for deliverance, for hope, for strength to break the chains.

Take a moment to think. Are there any behaviors or attitudes that you don’t want to pass along to your children? Are there any family curses you’d like to break? Talk to God about it. Then, find some fellow believers and discuss how they can help you change the future.

For further listening/reading:

Strand, Robert. The B Word: The Purpose and Power of the Blessing. Mobile, Alabama: Evergreen Press, 2005. Print. 

Lord Rabbi Sacks, Jonathan. “On Not Predicting the Future.” Vayechi, Covenant and Conversation 5776. iTunes, 2016. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.

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