In the middle of the woods near our home, a 200-year-old tree canopies countless critters and understory foliage. We’ve made regular trips to marvel at its beauty, to wonder about its tale, and all that it has seen—which, honestly, probably has just been a bunch of birds, rabbits, foxes, and deer. It’s the anchor of the woods. The oldest. The first.
I love how lineages are symbolized through trees. It’s a practice rooted in Biblical scripture, where the father of King David, Jesse, is referred to and future prophesies are fulfilled from the Book of Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots,” (11:1). This passage is the inspiration for our much-anticipated Advent tradition, the Jesse Tree, and also the medieval practice of organizing noble family pedigrees. As of late, I’ve been interested (and terrified) about the contents of my own family tree and the study of genealogy.
When researching heritage, one could really start anywhere on the journey through time. For beginners like me, it’s recommended to start tracing lines of descent through the father’s (paternal) sides. Birth, baptism, graduation, military, occupational, and funeral records help build branches. Documents such as newspaper articles, awards, yearbooks, and ship captain’s logs bring life to memories long buried.
In my own search, I’ve been camping on the dying wishes of my pioneer great (many times over) grandfather. In a faint but certain script, he wrote, “ye man being very sick and weak in body, but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God therefore, calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament.” William left everything to his “dearly beloved, darling wife,” except two branded mares, one for each of his sons. I like to believe he also passed on something a little less tangible, but exponentially more valuable: his faith.
What a gift fathers (and mothers!) can give their children. These days that we spend exploring and climbing the heights of God’s creation, I pray my children will follow this trail of trust in the Lord. Where I’ve so frequently faltered, I pray they are less prone to the slips and snares of the world… but it’s a journey, and His grace is abundant.
As a parent, I’ve often reflected on Abraham, the Father of Faith, and all he’s passed on to his descendants “more numerous than the stars of heaven.” Amazing! It can also be disheartening when I consider how Abraham acquired his great title. When God commanded Abraham to offer his only, beloved son as a sacrifice, Abraham trusted. Abraham trusted the goodness of God, even telling their companions, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,” (Genesis 22:5). On their way up the mountain, Abraham still trusted, declaring, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son,” (v.8).Together, they went. Together, father and son were partners on the path of faith.
How deep his trust in Lord must have been to be certain God would provide. Abraham knew the goodness of God. As a loving parent, would I have done the same as Abraham? Some days, I wonder if I’m only passing on irritability, impatience, and poison ivy sensitivities to my children. Other days, I remember that Abraham had been walking with the Lord for over a hundred years before God asked this of him, and I am filled with hope.
Wherever we are along our journey, whether we’ve been rooted in the Word since infant baptism, or if we’re late to discovering God’s path, He’s asking us all something.
This month of June, we celebrate fatherhood. I’m so thankful my own is a kind, generous, and loving man. I’m blessed beyond measure that my boys’ dad is full of faith. These men—fathers, grandfathers, providers, protectors, disciplinarians—they fill the branches of my family tree, invisibly grounded in God’s providence. His love.
If you never have, I encourage you to do a little exploring of your own family tree. And yes, I do think it helps when you start with the Father.