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Family Health | Dr. Jim Osterhaus

Your Family Story

December 2, 2021

This blog is designed to help you get a better understanding of the particular family stories in which you have lived. These family stories in which you’ve been embedded create critical foundations in forming the person you are now.

We’ll look backward to see and understand the family stories that surrounded and involved you, gave you definition and sustained you. I’ll give you some tools to help you search out the story patterns that were operating as your story was ‘written.’

We’ll also note the unique dimensions of your family story. You should begin to see the themes that were present, the dialogue that was used, the way each family character was introduced and shaped to fit into the family plot that was unfolding.

Why do this?  You may be asking yourself. The story happened – what’s the purpose of digging it up now? Do you think I need to blame someone for things that happened to me?

First, let me say that blaming parents or others for you current difficulties is not only a hindrance in your present and future development, but even harmful. I assume that your parents, no matter how badly they managed things when you were young, were doing the best job they knew how to do in the circumstances in which they found themselves as they wrote the family story (though instances of severe abuse and neglect will require careful consideration and forgiveness). The impact on you may have been very negative and destructive. And rewriting that story will be imperative. But blaming parents is not the goal – quite the contrary. God uses all the mistakes, abuses and poor judgments that befell us in our family stories to shape us into the characters he wants us to be. And knowing the story he wants to write on our lives is critical.

Second, I want to give you a sense of why you are the person you are today (the character you exhibit in the stories you inhabit), why you respond as you do in certain situations, why you act, think and feel the way you do.

Third, I want to help you discern places in the story that need rewriting. That’s right: the story can be edited, revised, rewritten. You don’t have to just live out the story that was first handed to you. God would have us conform our stories to the unique story he is writing for each of us, folding that story into the meta-narrative he’s writing for his kingdom. In conforming our stories to his story for us, we enter into a partnership with him – a partnership in editing our story.

Have you ever wondered:

  • How come I can’t seem to stay in a relationship with someone for more than a few months?
  • Why am I so optimistic, even when things go horribly wrong?
  • Why do I always seem to become fearful when authority figures are around?
  • Why do I always feel I have to please everyone?
  • How come I never seem to complete anything I’ve begun?
  • Why do I always seem to let everyone walk all over me?
  • Why I must dominate every discussion I’m a part of?

You’ve undoubtedly asked these or other questions as you’ve looked at your life story. As you continue to look into your family story, I think you’ll find that your responses to life, your way of conducting yourself, your whole lifestyle and outlook are there because of the way your particular family story developed.

Each of us comes from a unique family story and is currently in unique family stories. Within those family stories, each of us played a particular part (or parts) that furthered the plot of each of those stories. Not only do we play roles in these stories, but in many ways we are also writers, or at least co-writers, of the stories that we help act out.

No one else in your family tells the story exactly the same way you do. Everyone in the story has a unique point of view. All the versions of the family story stem from attempts by the various family characters to adapt to the unique plot as it unfolds in the family. Members play different roles, elicit different responses from other characters, and therefore interpret situations differently.

There are actually several interlocking stories that are unfolding simultaneously. There’s my own personal story, where I am the hero and everyone else plays a supporting role. My story is written in the context of the Family Story as it is being written, which in turn is being written embedded in the surrounding culture’s story. All of these interlocking stories unfold within the grand meta-narrative that God has been writing since the dawn of time.

Our attention in this blog will focus on our personal stories within the context of our family stories. We will also touch on the culture’s story while at the same time realizing that all of this is unfolding within the context of God’s story.


I invite you to interact with the material, post questions and comments, and generally enter into dialogue with me and others who are engaging in this blog.


About Dr. Jim Osterhaus

Dr. Jim Osterhaus is the Senior Executive Coach at Leighton Ford Ministries with extensive experience helping ministry leaders and organizations
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