"For years I 'got' God's love in my head, checked the right answer on the 'what is God like' test, but didn't fully understand it with my heart.....The reasons we don't receive, trust, or see His love vary from one person to the next, but we all miss out because of it. For me it had much to do with my relationship with my own father.....Don't get me wrong, not everything about my dad was bad....But I can't sugarcoat how my relationship with him negatively affected my view of God for many years." Francis Chan in Crazy Love
Like it or not, our most lasting and ingrained ideas about what God's love is like come from our earthly fathers.
In contrast to Francis Chan's experience, I think I "got" God's love in my heart before I ever made sense of it in my head.
Like Francis, it had much to do with my relationship with my dad.
I can't even begin to tell you how I love this man. Suffice it to say that my dream as a parent is for my own children to love me as much as I have loved my parents.
The only men who share my heart with my dad are my husband and my son.
But he had it first.
He's had it the longest.
Even though he is not perfect, I would be hard pressed to find a better earthly example of what God's love is like.
Unlike many parents today, my father was first and foremost an authority in my life. He interacted with me, enjoyed me, played with me and shared my life, and he was FUN--but he never pretended to be my buddy. Not only did I not talk back to him, it would not even have crossed my mind to talk back to him.
I most certainly feared my father's anger.
That fear, however, was not because my father's anger was harsh or unloving. I can count on one hand (maybe even half a hand) the number of spankings I received in my childhood. And when I consider what I did to deserve those spankings---I think he should have spanked me harder!
No, the reason I feared my father's anger was because I adored him and I couldn't bear his displeasure.
He was authoritative enough that I felt safe under his leadership, but a large part of his authority was earned not through position but through relationship. I knew he knew me. I knew I was special to him and I trusted his boundaries because I knew his reasons behind them. (Usually they were to protect me.)
Even after I was grown and left home as a single young woman, I felt safe no matter how far away I was, because I knew he was there the help me if I had difficulty.
I think I also feared his disappointment because I so desperately desired his approval. He demonstrated (still does) unusual honor and integrity. Because his own moral stature was so high, his approval meant something. His integrity was important because I knew he could be trusted to take care of me.
With that kind of experience growing up, it's remarkable to me that I can have so many times of not trusting my Heavenly Father. My dad is good, but he's not God. If he is faithful, trustworthy and constant, how much more is God Almighty?
If I am brutally honest, I have to admit that the root of my hesitancy to trust, the core of my tendency to disobey, is just plain selfishness.
You must not get the idea that I was a model child. Partly because I feared my father's anger and desired his approval, I had a tendency to lie and sneak behind his back. Somehow my immature mind thought that if I didn't get caught, then it wasn't bad. I desired his approval and relationship--but sometimes not more than I desired my own way. I knew the reasons for his rules, and I knew they were "good for me." They just got in my way at times.
How little I've grown! I know that God is perfect, that His plans are good. It's not that I don't trust His power or His purpose. If I'm honest, I have to admit that my resistance to trust lies in the fact that I don't trust Him to give me what I want--that His way will make me happy.
Oh, God have mercy on me.
He has shown me repeatedly that His way is not only best, it is deeply fulfilling and rewarding--enjoyable even! He as given me tastes of how satisfying He is even in times of brokenness and devastation.
I forget that, just like my father, all God really wants from me is an honest, loving relationship. I can't have that if I don't trust Him.
Lord, help me to trust.