Mike Glenn is the pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.
When our sons were still in high school, we gathered them up, along with my parents, and went to south Mississippi to visit the places my parents had grown up and started their lives. We saw the house where my father lived, a kudzu covered dog trot sharecropper’s shack outside of Bay Springs. We saw the school he attended and the roller-skating rink where my dad and mom first met.
We called it the “Glenn Historical Tour” and it changed my sons’ lives forever. My sons had heard my father’s stories. They had heard him talk about how poor his family was, but they had always heard my father tell about his reality in funny stories. Dad had always told the boys that his family was so poor that at Christmas, they would sit around and exchange glances.
Now, that’s a funny story and my father was a master story teller. For that reason, I don’t think my sons understood the full reality of the poverty my father knew as a child. Now, they were seeing it. They sat on the front porch of the old home place and listened again as Dad told his stories. This time, he began pointing to the places where the stories happened, and this time, my sons understood the journey my father had made.
My grandfather died when my Dad was 9 years old. My grandfather’s death threw the family into poverty. Trying to get away from the crushing poverty, my grandmother abandoned my father and his little brother when my father was sixteen. My dad cut one load of pulp wood every week, sold it for $25, and that’s the money my father and uncle lived on.
My dad ran a gas station, roller-skating rink, and worked as a doctor’s assistant. He joined the Air Force and learned electronics. That opened the avenue into the middle class for my mom and dad. During that week, my sons began to understand the price my father had paid for the life we now enjoyed. My father broke the poverty cycle in my family. Because of his hard work, I was able to go to college and find a career that allowed my sons to go to college.
What would have happened if my father didn’t break the cycle? Then, it would have fallen to me to do so. That would have changed everything.
I probably wouldn’t be a pastor. I would have had to make other life choices. I wouldn’t have been able to afford the education required.
I wouldn’t have met Jeannie, my wife. I met her at seminary. If I wasn’t going into the ministry, I wouldn’t have been at seminary.
That means we wouldn’t have had Chris and Craig. “You’re here,” I told them, “because your grandfather broke the cycle.”
I will always be grateful for the price my father was willing to pay for our family.
I tell his story often. One, because I’m proud of him, and second, I end up talking to a lot of people who are trapped in cycles – cycles of addictions, bad decisions, bad relationships and so forth. They don’t believe they can get out of these cycles. They are convinced they’re trapped. They don’t think they can ever be free. They see themselves as victims of the cycle.
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Source: Christianity Today