I was raised by a single mom who was an atheist (my dad died when I was a baby). I had virtually no contact with either my mom's or my dad's family, since we lived in California and they all lived east of the Mississippi. When I was in my 40's I finally developed relationships with the children of my dad's only sibling (I have never met the children of my mother's siblings). One of them invited me to a family reunion in Louisiana, in the town where my paternal grandmother was raised and where her extended family still lives.
It is a large family, since they are Catholic, and at that reunion I learned about their history. My great-grandparents came to the United States from Ireland as a result of the potato famine. They entered through New Orleans, which at the time was the only other port of entry for immigrants besides Ellis Island. There were nine children in the family, one of the younger ones being my grandmother, who was born in 1888. This was all new information for me; I had thought that this side of my family was cajun (french roots), since most of the people in that area of Luisiana were. But I didn't really absorb the implications of this family history; since I hadn't met any of these people before, it seemed more like learning about a random family, not my family.
A couple of years later, while I was attending a professional conference, I was getting ready to go to dinner and when I looked in the mirror, it was as though I saw myself for the first time. "Oh my God, I'm IRISH!" I thought, and it was so obvious - LOTS of freckles and reddish brown hair. I suddenly remembered that everyone had told me that I looked like my aunt, who as I realized now, was clearly of Irish stock. I realized that being 1/4 Irish, I could actually qualify for an Irish passport!
Something else presented itself as I considered this new revelation about who I am. I had always been fascinated by Catholicism. I had never been around Catholic relatives, and I had never been to church at all (atheist mother, remember), but I had always felt a mysterious draw to Catholicism. It wasn't until at least 15 years later that my husband and I actually entered the Catholic Church, but the closer we got to it, the more I wondered whether somehow it was embedded in my genes.
A thousand generations. I'm sure that I have many ancestors on my dad's side who prayed for the generations after them, who raised their children to know and rely on God with the confidence that their children would do the same.
A thousand generations. Our children, and all their children, count themselves among the redeemed and follow Him with their whole hearts.
A thousand generations. Even though my mom was an atheist, my dad's parents were committed christians, as their parents had been before them and theirs before them, stretching back for generations. And God honored their love for Him by leading me into an environment in which I could learn about Him and learn to follow Him with my whole heart.
A thousand generations. A generation is usually considered to be 20 years. Twenty thousand years - we are responsible to ensure that the generations who succeed us have a living faith to pass on to many more beyond them. But in my family, I see the thread of faith having passed on for many generations, and that gives me confidence that far into the future my descendants will be followers of the God who loves us so fervently that He gave us the gift of Himself that we might be united with Him forever.
Our faithful God keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deut 7:8-10)