“What we do in life echoes in eternity” is a quote much loved by cognitive behavioural therapist Yvonne Griese, whose new book A Cross in Time examines how our own faith journey can have an impact on future generations, Julie Houghton writes.
How does your book explore this idea?
A Cross in Time follows two fictional families through three generations and shows how each generation plays their part in the ‘big picture’ of eternity. It’s a roller coaster ride of pure creativity, humour and a glimpse into the heavenly realm, inspired by my own family story.
What was your family like?
My mother was a Protestant, who took my sister Elizabeth and me to the Presbyterian Church from the age of three. Originally from the country, she supported the National Country Party. Her upbringing had been secure and trauma-free and she was a bright student. On the other hand, Dad was raised as a Catholic, but he was agnostic. He was a trade union boss and became a life member of the Australian Labor Party. He came from a background of divorce and poverty and had to leave school at age 14.
To their credit, my parents chose the path of mutual respect for beliefs, and their marriage, though often rocky, survived for life. Both were passionate about what they believed, and lived by those beliefs. I was free to ask anything, and they were both articulate in their answers, so Elizabeth and I learned to think for ourselves.
You say you were a very inquisitive child, so how did your parents respond to this thirst for knowledge?
As a young girl, I regaled my mother with questions, in a quest to figure out life. Mum wasn’t typical of her peers in the early 1950s. She was an educated woman, who refused to perpetuate the lies that children of that era were told about the expected role of women in society. She didn’t push an agenda, she simply answered my constant barrage of questions honestly.
It was crucial for me to grasp the big picture of life, to find purpose in my day-to-day existence. It was never enough to just go through each day without questioning why. Fortunately, my parents had the capacity to give me the room to find that context, at my own pace.
How did your parents help you on your own faith journey?
My parents played an important role in my journey to faith. They both taught me to question and to listen, not just ‘accept’ the cultural rhetoric of the day but to search for timeless truths, many of them from the pages of my Bible. Their legacy has been passed to me, and I’ve passed it down to my children, and their children. Goodness echoes through generations and, yes, into eternity.
While your own background was a loving one, not everyone is so lucky, do negative values also get passed down through generations?
As a cognitive behavioural therapist, I’ve certainly encountered the intergenerational impact of mental and physical abuse. Researchers have found that positive physical and emotional attention (daily hugs, affirmation and eye contact) impact on your child’s brain development and help them cultivate compassion.
The opposite is true for children of neglectful parents; a trait that then echoes through generations, unless the chain of neglect is broken. But if we teach parents who were neglected as children how to show affection to their baby, even if they don’t feel like it, their child’s brain will develop normally and compassion re-enters their family story for generations to come.
This is great news if your family story has been one of abuse or neglect. The next chapter is a blank page and what you write in it will echo for generations to come and into eternity.