Because life is a series of edits

Marriage and Family Paper (part 1)

In Family, Marriage, Seminary on December 1, 2006 at 2:00 am

I just finished my family genogram (and a ten-page paper explaining it) for my Marriage and Family class. For this assignment, I was to analyze my family not simply in a recollection of historical facts, but by a thorough analysis of dynamics and functioning that have been influenced by history. This weekend, I thought I'd post some generic excerpts that might encourage you to think through your own family and how it has shaped you as well.

Can you hear me when I sing?
You're the reason I sing
You're the reason why the opera's in me
–“Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own,” U2

The rock star Bono singing about opera is comparable to my writing about family – the basic subject matter is familiar and I “get” it (after all, music is music and family is family), but the experience can still be a very foreign one.

Another similarity: just as there is a profound operatic streak running through Bono because of his father’s life and music, there is also an opera – full of interesting characters, relationships, memories, and meanings – playing in and through my own life because of my family. The metaphor is appropriate, as music and story have always been the most interesting of subjects to me.

In considering this opera, I’m fascinated anew by the fact that what separates me from previous generations is simply one day passing after another, over and over again, until days become months, months years, years decades, decades centuries, and so on. Time is both a massive and miniscule gap across to transcend, as it is nothing more (or is it nothing less?) than an enormous accumulation of the minutes of our very existence.

As time so accumulates, so, too, does my family – not just physically, but also emotionally, relationally, and spiritually – by the addition (and the multiplication) of each generation’s endowment to its lines. In our case, this has been (for the most part) for the good; at times for the not-so-good; and, perhaps most accurately, a little of both.

  1. I thought you might find this review of genograms interesting… it was what I handed in for the completion of my project with the same material.

  2. Thanks, Derek, for sending your link. I appreciated your paper.
    Regarding the genogram, I view it as a tool and little more. Actually, the genogram itself (i.e. the actual one-page chart of my family) only makes sense if accompanied by the paper I wrote explaining it, so I don’t disagree with you on the obvious limitations of shapes and lines on a two-dimensional sheet.
    However, in doing the chart and writing the paper, I found the process very helpful not to find “answers” in my past to my current problems, but to better understand more of the problems themselves and their backgrounds in order to lay them at the feet of Christ in the here and now.
    As you mentioned in your paper, the value of a genogram (or anything else, for that matter) has much to do with our motives in utilizing it. Some of mine in fulfilling the assignment were 1) to take responsibility for my own sin and not blame others for theirs; 2) to acknowledge both positive as well as less-than-positive traits in my family; and 3) to be open to both the value and the limitations of the process itself.
    To the degree that I understand your seven “convictions,” I think I would agree with just about all of them. We see things differently in terms of the application of them, however (crutch or not, I’m not sure I could “castrate the work of the Holy Spirit” even if I wanted to), but I appreciate your interaction here and welcome more of your thoughts as you have them.

  3. * did you use genopro?

  4. I did my genogram in Keynote (the Mac version of PowerPoint), which worked great. A lot of genogram software programs aren’t very customizable and I wanted to include bits and pieces of our family history in and among the shapes and lines, so that worked just as well for me (though I probably spent twenty hours doing it, not because it was difficult but because I’m just a freak that way).

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