Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Gnarled Branches on Your Family Tree

Gnarled Branches on Your Family Tree


What kind of family legacy did you inherit? Are your parents and grandparents examples of godly men and women, or are you burdened with a discouraging legacy?

Holidays such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day can stir up tender memories of godly parents and grandparents who poured their love into us until it overflowed. But for some, an ungodly legacy left by broken generations casts a shadow over these and other holidays.

Still, we have a choice. We don’t have to spend our lives casting blame for a burdensome heritage. Having a parent or grandparent who lived a sinful lifestyle doesn’t mean we have to follow in their footsteps. And the reverse is also true. The godliest parents in the world cannot guarantee their children will also live a God-honoring life.

The problem is as old as the Bible. In 2 Kings 15-16, we read of several kings in Israel and Judah. Good kings such as Azariah (15:3) and Jotham (15:34) tried to do “what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” They weren’t completely successful, and pockets of pagan worship remained throughout the land. Sadly, their descendant, King Ahaz, didn’t just tolerate pagan worship, he fully participated in it. He even sacrificed his own child by fire (2 Kings 16:3-4).

What could his ancestors have done to prevent Ahaz’s wrong decisions? Nothing. Then, as now, people were accountable for their own choices. Of course, we can be influenced by our family legacy, but those influences do not eliminate our individual, personal responsibility. After reading about Ahaz’s moral depths, we might conclude that his descendants would be morally equal to or worse than their father. Yet, Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, is one of the brighter spots in Judah’s royal history. Hezekiah didn’t sit around bemoaning his awful heritage. Instead he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” and trusted God (18:3, 5).

The branches of your family tree and mine may be gnarled and shameful, or they may be healthy and fruitful. Either way, as Christ-followers, we have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. He equips us to live in a way that lifts up the name of Jesus and gives glory to our heavenly Father.

Rather than looking back at the gnarled branches of our family tree, we can look forward to leaving our own legacy for generations to come. Regardless of those who came before us, we still have a choice. Build on the heritage of a fruitful tree or, in the case of a tree filled with gnarled branches, grab a shovel and plant a new one.

What will you choose?



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  1. Kathleen M Barrett

    What an excellent, thoughtful, encouraging article for those whose lives have been battered by “gnarled” branches. The Scriptures you referenced, Ava, give a relevant perspective for those struggling with the legacy they will leave behind. We always have a choice, don’t we – bitter or better? I shared “Subscribe” on my K.M. Barrett, Author FB page and Twitter. Thank you!

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