One of the main reasons people hold false perceptions of God is our tendency to project onto God the unloving characteristics of the people we look up to. We tend to believe that God is going to treat us as others do.
Consider just a few ways in which your image of your father possibly may have affected your perception of God, which in turn affects your self-image.
If your father was distant, impersonal and uncaring, and he wouldn’t intervene for you, you may see God as having the same characteristics. As a result, you feel that you are unworthy of God’s intervention in your life. You find it difficult to draw close to God because you see God as disinterested in your needs and wants.
If your father was a pushy man who was inconsiderate of you, or who violated and used you, you may see God in the same way. You probably feel cheap or worthless in God’s eyes, and perhaps feel that you deserve to be taken advantage of by others. You may feel that God will force you, not ask you, to do things you don’t want to do.
If your father was like a drill sergeant, demanding more and more from you with no expression of satisfaction, or burning with anger with no tolerance for mistakes, you may have cast God in his image. You likely feel that God will not accept you unless you meet his demands, which seem unattainable. This perception may have driven you to become a perfectionist.
If your father was a weakling, and you couldn’t depend on him to help you or defend you, your image of God may be that of a weakling. You may feel that you are unworthy of God’s comfort and support, or that he is unable to help you.
If your father was overly critical and constantly came down hard on you, or if he didn’t believe in you or your capabilities and discouraged you from trying, you may perceive God in the same way. You don’t feel as if you’re worth God’s respect or trust. You may even see yourself as a continual failure, deserving all the criticism you receive.
In contrast to the negative perceptions many people have about God, let me give you several positive character qualities of a father. Notice how these qualities, if they existed in your father, have positively influenced your perception of God.
If you father was patient, you are more likely to see God as patient and available for you. You feel that you are worth God’s time and concern. You feel important to God and that He is personally involved in every aspect of your life.
If your father was kind, you probably see God acting kindly and graciously on your behalf. You feel that you are worth God’s help and intervention. You feel God’s love for you deeply and you’re convinced that God wants to relate to you personally.
If your father was a giving man, you may perceive God as someone who gives to you and supports you. You feel that you are worth God’s support and encouragement. You believe that God will give you what is best for you, and you respond by giving of yourself to others.
If your father accepted you, you tend to see God accepting you regardless of what you do. God doesn’t dump on you or reject you when you struggle, but understands and encourages you. You are able to accept yourself even when you blow it or don’t perform up to your potential.
If your father protected you, you probably perceive God as your protector in life. You feel that you are worthy of being under God’s care and you rest in his security.
Thanks to H. Norman Wright and Billy D. Strayhorn for these thoughts on God and fatherhood.
How has YOUR image of God and YOUR relationship with God been influenced and shaped by your image and your relationship with your human father?
What adjustments have YOU MADE with your image of God and your relationship with God as you grew and matured in your faith life?