I find myself in a place of grief after learning that my great uncle passed away last week. I am not mourning the loss of a special soul in my life, but instead the fact that I never had the opportunity to know him.

I wrestle with many “what if” questions. What if my grandfather, also a man I never knew, hadn’t been an abusive drunk? What if he had been a loving father who took care of his children after the death of his first wife?

What if my grandmother hadn’t had her own psychological demons with which to wrestle? What if they had raised his children alongside the two boys they had together?

The answers to those questions are almost too painful to contemplate. Maybe my father wouldn’t have sought solace in the bottom of a bottle or from the prick of a needle. Maybe he wouldn’t have ultimately lost his life in a drunk driving crash in which he was the driver.

Maybe my mother wouldn’t have been left on her own to raise her three children, struggling to make ends meet. Maybe my brothers and I would have had a father to help us navigate this crazy life.

Would I have had my daddy to walk me down the aisle or to dance with to “Daddy’s Little Girl” on my wedding day? Would he have gotten to see the birth of his four beautiful granddaughters and the incredible young women that they are becoming.

Maybe I would have a relationship with my Aunt Fran and Uncle Jim and my father’s three other half siblings. Maybe I would have memories of celebrating Christmas and spending summer vacations with cousins who looked like me, who share my Metzger DNA.

We live in a fiercely individualistic society. We hold tight to our personal liberties, telling ourselves that we have the right to do whatever we want with our lives. And while that is true, it doesn’t change the fact that what you and I do with our lives will impact generations to come.

Several times in the Old Testament, it is said that the sins of the fathers are passed on to the third and fourth generations. I used to think that this meant God would punish children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren because of the wrong done by one man.

But I believe my own family is a perfect example of the fact that the natural consequences of sin can have lasting repercussions. My grandfather Kenneth’s choice to live his life the way he did wreaked havoc on the lives of his children and grandchildren.

As one of those grandchildren, I have my own choices to make. I can choose to allow the cycle to repeat itself, or I can decide to take a stand and declare, like Joshua, “Me and my house will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

And so today, I will chose to seek first God and His kingdom. I will put the needs of my husband and my children before my own. I will sacrifice my “right” to do what I want, when I want, how I want because that freedom doesn’t exist. It is an illusion at best, a dangerous presumption that brings heartache and death at its worst.

I will love my children wholeheartedly and will teach them to follow what Jesus called the greatest commandments—to love God with all their heart and to love people as themselves.

Someday, all that will be left of my life will be the dash between a birth date and a death date and the legacy I leave the world through my daughters. When they look back over their lives, what will they see? My goal is to give them a family history very different from my own.

I recently read a goal-setting book that asked these questions, “What do you want your life to look like when you are 80? What will be important to you?” And while the answers to those questions are important, my dreams of the future go far beyond my own old age.

Instead, they are based on the vision of four little old ladies sitting on a front porch in rocking chairs reminiscing over their lives, sharing stories of God’s faithfulness, and fondly remembering the time they spent with their mother and father.

We cannot go back and change the past, but we can change our future. Whatever we have been through, whatever our family inheritance, if we seek Him, God will give us the strength, wisdom and healing we need to gift a heritage of faith and righteousness to generations to come.

I would love to share a Scripture printable that I created to remind myself to seek God’s Kingdom daily. Visit my blog today to download your free copy to display in your own home.

Heather Ablondi is a women’s ministry speaker and author who lives in Fredericksburg. You can contact her through her website, heatherablondi.com.

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