"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deut. 30:19)
Last week an acquaintance of mine posted a raw and honest request for prayer. The need was (as it almost always is) for healing, for freedom, and for restoration. For the reversal of the curse.
I prayed for her and for her beloved child. I thought of them as I woke up the next day, singing a song I often sing in the morning. "Oh Lord, you have been good, you have been faithful to all generations. Oh Lord, your steadfast love and tender mercy has been our salvation."
For years, as our family suffered from terrible illness, I had to say out loud that He is good. That His love and mercy is our salvation. That the Lord was fighting for us and that He has never lost a single battle.
It seemed, during those dark and painful years, that the illness wasn't just ours. It felt like the unwanted legacy of generations. As we took tiny steps toward health, it seemed sometimes like there were burdens of centuries weighing us down. Each step felt heavy, like walking with feet of clay.
"....choose life, so that you and your children my live."
In the jungles of Peru, the Aguaruna people were, for hundreds of years, a warrior society. The fathers woke up their little sons before dawn, and recited the names of their enemies until list upon list was memorized. The names of those to be murdered were seared into the minds of tiny four-year-old children. There was only one choice set before an Aguaruna boy. That choice was to bring death to his enemies. An anthropologist studied the group during the 1930's and determined that based on the rate of killings, the people would self-annihilate before long.
As the gospel message came and the Scriptures began their work in the hearts of the people, a change took place. The change began with one of the first Christians among the Aguaruna. He stood up in a gathering of men and asked, "Does an Aguaruna ever forgive?" They answered with a resounding shout, "No!"
But this one man, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to his enemy, a man who was marked to be his next victim, and asked forgiveness. Just like that, the cycle was broken for that family. The healing of that nation had begun.
The truth of God's Word changed everything for the Aguaruna. The truth that they were made for life, not for death. The truth that they were the beloved of Jesus. The truth that they had the strength to stop the cycle of revenge.
And the stories in the wee hours of the morning, as the fathers murmured to their children the things that mattered most, changed. No longer did morning dawn with a litany of hate. Forgiveness had come.
Death to life.
It can happen in one generation, in one person, and it can change everything.
I asked my son yesterday if he could describe the word "epigenetics" in one simple sentence. He couldn't. Look it up, because it's complex and still a mystery to scientists. But Caleb said if he were to define it, he would use the words "overlying," "environmental," and "reversible." The prefix "epi" means "over," so the word is literally, "over-genetics."
Epigenetics was discovered as a result of World War II. The survivors of concentration camps were found to produce offspring with high incidences of disease, including metabolic disorders and mental illness. In other words, the survivors were alive, but their genetic code was altered by trauma. They carried within their bodies the seeds of death, not of life. Genetics are the body's operating code. The operating code was damaged in the parents, and that resulted in harm to succeeding generations.
But epigenetics is reversible. Scientists don't understand why, but the damaged genes can be altered in just one generation.
The Aguaruna Christians, filled with new life in the remote jungles of Peru, know why.
Anybody who has entered into combat against addiction, and won, knows why.
In my family, we know why.
It doesn't mean the struggle is over, or that life has become simple and easy, Every day is a day to choose life over death. The choice is made in a hundred small ways.
When I lettered the words from "Joy to the World" on our chalkboard last week, I remembered the lines of the song. I had not realized until then how much depth is in these lyrics:
"No more let sin and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found."
It's why He came. It's why I love Christmas.
And it's why I pray, with hope, for health and restoration. For everyone. For the ends of the earth. For each precious child.
Because with Jesus, nothing is impossible.
....I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deut. 30: 19b-20)