There is a teaching that says, “You are your mother’s daughter” meaning that mother and daughter act alike, respond to people just like each other and thus history repeats itself through them from one generation to the next. It’s like your blood is teaching you at a cellular level. Behavioral patterns are reproduced by virtue of generational DNA memory quite like the exercise of typing becomes a muscle memory activity.
I like that a lot when I think of my two girls out roaming around living life. I enjoy that I am “a vine in their blood” so they take me with them everywhere. In fact, as long as we’re talking about all my good qualities and all the good things I want for them, I love it! On the flip side, I really don’t want them to carry around all – or any of – of my negative traits.
The curious truth is that they get some of both, those I am proud of and those I’m not so proud of. Even the quirky ones play out before my eyes like a tragic comedy on the operatic stage of an amphitheater with incredible acoustics. For better or worse that’s just the plain truth. It’s how things work.
For example, I have a tendency not to ask the right questions at the right time. My husband is frequently saying, “But did you ask about ….?” “You never ask the questions I would ask”, he says. I find myself need his help in this area. Not asking questions is something that my mother did that damaged her life and mine. And I still struggle with the timing and phrasing of questions!!! This struggle has impacted my work life, family life and church life. I super duper appreciate those times when I am allowed to think for myself but am helped to verbally phrase things like questions appropriately.
Praise be to God who is merciful beyond measure, I also do things my daddy did. The traits I acquired from him work to balance out a few of my mother’s negative traits. For example, Daddy was a thinker who took time away from everything and everyone to process life and ponder questions or find solutions.
Not everyone saw this as a positive trait during his lifetime but I for one am very grateful now that he possessed it and that I am like him in this way. I may not ask the right questions either correctly or immediately but I will process what I hear, see and experience. By the grace of God, that processing shapes my choices instead of the turbulent waves and sub-currents of reactionary, misinformed, conjecture making, silent mistakes. I can boast in my weaknesses and praise God for His help.
Now regarding the womanly inheritance I received, when my thoughts go backward in time one generation, I don’t like inheriting family traits so much. Even three generations back on my mother’s side there are some traits in our family line I want absolutely nothing to do with, some that are annoying but other traits that are good things. For all the wanting in the world, for all the hardest, deepest, longest wishing that the women in my family were different, simple childlike wanting will not change them nor will it change the truth of inherited behaviors.
An old Cherokee told his grandson, My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy peace, love, hope humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.
The boy thought about it and asked, “ Which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”
The Cherokee people have a good proverb. In my own culture, this proverb imagery is all about the vine.
Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters. Ezekiel 19:10 (KJV)
While this verse may be a positive picture of growth, reading through to verse 14 the story is not a happy one. A transplant situation nearly killed her. While she was watered she was strong. When she lived without water she was weak. So in Ezekiel, we see the same concept as the Cherokee teaching. The wolf you feed is victorious; the vine you water thrives.
Inheritance and choice collide in the totality of who we are. I inherited both the vigorous vine and the weak one, a mixture of traits that God aligned as he knit me together in the womb. But I am offered a choice. A Redeemer who loves me has given me everything I need. He allows me to do whatever I want with his provision for me. There is no better picture of such a relationship than in Ezekiel 16.
Ezekiel 16:44 (KJV)
Behold, everyone that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.
This chapter is an epic tale of love and “loathing”.
The daughter had an opportunity to be better than her mother because of the loving actions and rescue efforts of one who cared. Instead of appreciating her new situation in life, she showed contempt for her benefactor and his gifts. Her deeds canceled the offer; she reverted back to her mother’s nasty ways. He was angry in a devastated kind of way but called her to face the truth.
Even though the daughter acted like the mother, the daughter bore the shame of her own choices not those of any of her female family members.
With a great intensity I do not want to end up like that woman in Ezekiel. So I look at what mattered to her Prince Charming with the goal of realigning my personal choices to become a better version of myself:
- remember my beginnings honestly,
- love my husband,
- love, nurture and claim my children,
- extend my hand to the poor and needy,
- don’t use my fame to worship anyone other than the LORD
- don’t trust in my own beauty
- Be choosy about who I lavish favor on
- do not comfort those that act on their evil inclinations nor make them appear righteous simply because they are “less evil” than I am.
- worship the LORD and no other
Truth does not change because I want it to. Yes daughters do what their mothers do. And when some people hear my story they might quote this proverb against me. God knows.
Personal choices are personal choices. Each choice comes with its own consequence. (In this chapter of Ezekiel the consequence was bearing the shame and disgrace even though the rest of life was restored.)
Abandoned women rescued to a better situation, a caring situation, have a choice to behave differently. By the love and power of God we can walk away from the circumstances of our abandonment to be a better version of ourselves. Though the scars of the past remain etched in our memory, we can teach the reality of our history without repeating it in our own lives nor causing our daughters to repeat it.
Thank you God!