One of the challenges you may have is that your view of God was shaped more by your family than what you read in the Bible. My counseling staff and I see this problem on a regular basis when we help people understand their actual concept of God. When we go over the history of their lives, they sometimes see how their relationship with their earthly father has influenced their view of God.
It was certainly true for me. Let me describe how my relationship with my dad related to how I once saw God. (My dad and I have talked about this, and I have received his permission to share this information. I want to honor him.)
My dad would have given his life for me. There is no doubt that he loved me then and loves me now. He provided for me and our family. He came to my basketball games in high school and was there for other important events.
Yet when he asked me to do some kind of project, he had a habit of coming behind me, redoing it, or telling me what I did wrong more than what I did right. As an adult, I talked to him about this and he apologized, not realizing he was doing it. But this is what was happening as I grew up.
For example, we had a fairly large yard that was hilly and full of pine trees. We lived where it was hot and humid, and we had a push mower to cut the grass. As you can imagine, it was hard work.
I started mowing our yard when I was around fourteen years old, and I could never finish it in one day. Finally, toward the end of the summer when I was fifteen, for the first time I mowed the entire yard in one day. I was so excited I had accomplished this feat. I couldn’t wait for my dad to get home from work so I could tell him.
I sat on the front steps of our home, anticipating what it was going to be like when he drove up. When he pulled into the garage, I rushed over to his car door. As he stepped out, I shouted, “Dad, I mowed the lawn and finished the whole yard all in one day!”
Dad stepped out to the front lawn, inspected it, and then said only one thing: “You missed a spot.” I was crushed. This imprinted on me that I couldn’t fully please my dad. It felt like no matter what I did for him, it was never quite good enough.
I didn’t know it at the time, but these types of comments from my dad definitely shaped how I viewed my heavenly Father. When I became serious about my relationship with God, I really wanted him to be proud of me as well. I worked hard to obey and serve him. Yet deep down, I felt as though I could never fully please him either. It often felt like he was coming behind me saying, “You missed a spot.”
Our view of God, however, is not always negatively influenced by our families. For example, my wife’s father was loving, affectionate, and kind. She had a great relationship with him and felt loved, accepted, and important. His love was unconditional and she didn’t feel as though she had anything to prove. But she wanted to obey him just because she knew how much he loved her.
That is how she has always seen her heavenly Father—loving, kind, and accepting of her. She’s wanted to obey him just because she knew how much he loved her. Over the years, God has grown her understanding of who he is, and she had a good model in her dad.
When you think about your relationship with God, do you see any parallels with your family? Your perspective could have been influenced by your dad, or it could have been affected by your relationship with your mom, a grandparent, an uncle, or even someone outside your family, such as a pastor or priest.