Adulting: Getting Past the Past


At Gateway Church in Austin we continued a new series called Adulting: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.


Growing up physically and intellectually do not guarantee we will grow at the same pace (if at all) emotionally and spiritually. Charting a path of growth towards becoming our true selves requires that we take an honest look in the mirror. Are you ready?

Next Steps:

Discussion questions and the Genogram exercise for your life group or family dinner are here.

Audio from the Message I Shared at Gateway South:

Notes from the Message by John Burke:

Have you ever considered how much of our relational struggles in life are a result of never fully growing up emotionally?


  • Are able to ask for what they need, want, or prefer— clearly, directly, honestly
  • Recognize, manage, and take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings
  • Can, when under stress, state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial
  • Respect others without having to change them • Give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect
  • Appreciate people for who they are— the good, bad, and ugly— not for what they give back
  • Accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and are able to freely discuss them with others
  • Are deeply in tune with their own emotional world and able to enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of others without losing themselves
  • Have the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others.

Few get there because few actively try to grow emotionally and spiritually. Have you ever thought about where those false identities and emotionally stunted ways of dealing with life came from? The truth that’s hard for all of us to accept is that none of our families were perfect. Some of you are saying, “That’s not hard to accept.” Maybe not, but do you know how they affected you? There’s not one family—even the best family–that fully escaped the consequences of a fallen, sinful world.

People have an immense mystical power to shape one another in profound ways.  God made us that way.  Growing up, our families shaped us for better or worse (actually for both).  Our family of origin sewed into our conscience ways of living life, some ways that align with God’s design, some that conflict.  All parents pass on good ways of doing life, but also broken ways to their kids.  And what happens if our parents never grew up emotionally or spiritually into the mature adults God intended? Well, then they likely passed that emotionally unhealthy way of doing life on to you.


God puts us in our families—We are to love and honor them. One of the 10 commandments is to honor your father and mother found in Exodus 20 and reiterated in the New Testament in Ephesians 6:2-3.

“Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.”

God’s intention was that they would break with past sins of their families so they could pass on His emotionally healthy ways to us—we just pick them up without trying.

God warned us of this, but few take that seriously. God also warned us when we choose to go against God’s will and ways, a law of family says The consequences of actions and decisions taken in one generation affect those who follow.

So it’s common to observe certain patterns from one generation to the next such as divorce, alcoholism, addictive behavior, sexual abuse, poor marriages, one child running off, mistrust of authority, pregnancy out of wedlock, an inability to sustain stable relationships, etc.

Scientists and sociologists have been debating for decades whether this is a result of “nature” (i.e., our DNA) or “nurture” (i.e., our environment) or both.

The Bible doesn’t answer this question. It only states that this is a “mysterious law of God’s universe.”

In giving of the Ten Commandments, God warned us of this reality:

“I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. – Exodus 20: 4–6

It’s not hard to see the truth of this. You may say “Why does God do this?” This is not God being mean—this is God giving us free will so we can love God and people, but warning us of the way Reality works–when people are free to reject the Creator and His ways. God is hoping to protect us and our children by lovingly warning us how Creation works. Just like ignoring the affects of gravity has consequences, ignoring God’s will and ways hurts us and passes down. This is such an important principle of emotional/spiritual growth. “the sins of the fathers and mothers pass from generation to generation.”

Don’t miss the good news: God’s unfailing love is lavished on those who love and obey him—and that passes to 1000s.

God has a plan to create a new family, a redemptive family, a family with the power to heal and restore what humanity lost by going our own way.  Through Christ we can reconnect to the Father as a new family.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. – Hebrews 2:10-12  

God is creating a new family—that’s what the church is intended to be—brothers and sisters with a New Father/a New Parent, growing up to be like God emotionally whole.

So when we turn to God’s forgiveness and adoption that Christ made possible, we are still to love and honor our families or origin. But honoring family now holds second priority to obeying God and learning to follow His will and ways.  That’s why at one point, Jesus Mother and brothers thought he was crazy, came to take him home—he had to choose God’s will over their will 

A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”  “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” – Mark 3:32-35 

So here’s a very important lesson of emotional growth—adulting, growing up—means you come out from under your parents authority and place yourself under God’s authority. God’s will comes first—even if family despises you, resents you, persecutes you or hates you for it.

Jesus said, there’s a priority that must come first:

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Matthew 10:37-38

If we are going to find a New Life—a Life of Emotional and Spiritual health, we have to die to the Old Ways we inherited that go against His ways.

So how do we do this?

What I’ve found is that many of these broken patterns are so ingrained in us, they’re almost impossible to recognize. Like fish who don’t know what water is because it’s the only environment they’ve known, the environment we grew up in seems right—even when it’s broken. True spirituality frees us to live joyfully in the present. It requires, however, going back in order to go forward. This takes us to the very heart of spirituality and discipleship in the family of God—breaking free from the destructive sinful patterns of our pasts to live the life of love God intends for his children.

But first, you have to identify Baggage you inherited that God the Father wants you to leave behind. This is where we need each other—a new family, brothers and sisters, who help each other see things that we might not see that are hurting us or others.  This is what can happen in community whether in a serving network, our Recovery Groups, or in a Life group do. We create the environments where we can all heal and grow. How? Jesus told us:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye…So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:1-5, 12

See this is a new way to love and help each other grow. First, we were trained around the old family table to judge, criticize, and focus on the faults of others so we could divert others from seeing our wounds, sins, or character defects. But God’s teaching us to be a New Family–not judging or trying to fix others (even when they hurt us), but first seeking to humbly look at ourselves. Let God take the plank out of my eye first (me first). When we come together in humble willingness to let God grow us up, then we have something to offer each other. What? We can ask questions, encourage, support, pray for, and be patient with each other as we grow up.


When we hate or despise something of our parents, we often overreact and swing the pendulum too far to the other way.

PENDULUM – Overspending – Healthy – Overly Frugal

Healthy is moderation, but we almost never vow “I’ll never be like that” and land in the healthy middle—so you may not be Irresponsible like your dad, but you may be Overly responsible, controlling and anxious.

So this is a life-long journey of growing up. But there still places to grow, but there are great victories too!

God does not destine you to the sins of your parents. You recognize and repent (repent means to turn from things Against God’s will, pray and confess those wrong ways, and commit yourself to obey God’s will and ways). You pray:

 “Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. – Psalm 79:8  

Never forget—you can break those generational chains and be the one through whom God’s unfailing love passes on to 1000 generations.

Generational sins and struggles are passed down in families, and we can also see clearly that sins and struggles are passed down in cultures and nations. Today is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow is a day off for many of us as we honor his efforts as a civil rights leader. We have made much progress, but much more progress needs to be made. As we find healing from Jesus and bring that healing to our families, we will also Bring Jesus’ healing to our city and our country.

Finding healing for yourself is God’s intent and bringing that healing to others is His purpose for us.


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