The Father Experience
Father. For some that is a word that conjures up feelings of warmth, security, and pride. For all too many others it is a word that triggers pain, anger, and shame.
It is not an overstatement to say that the relationship a man has with his father has a profound effect on every relationship he will have on this earth. And, whether we realize it or not, our earthly father experience plays a crucial role in shaping the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father.
I grew up with an alcoholic, verbally-abusive father. The hurt, anger, fear, and shame of my childhood continued to manifest itself in my adult life, intensified by the belief that God simply didn’t care. With the help of some understanding, compassionate, godly men I began to connect the dots. I came to realize that there are parallels between the relationship we have with our earthly father and the perception we have of our Heavenly Father.
If we had a loving, encouraging relationship with our dad it is likely that we will view God the same way: As One who genuinely loves and cares for His children.
Conversely, it is true that:
- Children whose fathers were angry and abusive are likely to become adults who keep God at arm’s length. Kids with volatile dads learn early on what happens when they get too close to a father.
- Children whose dads left the family (physically or emotionally) often find it difficult even in their adult years to accept that God will always be there for them.
- Children of workaholic dads are more likely to grow up believing that they don’t matter to God; that He is much too busy to be concerned with their needs.
- Children who were sexually abused by their fathers are inclined to struggle with intimacy in their adult relationships.
It is common for those whose image of God is tainted by their father experience to turn their backs—either intentionally or unintentionally–on their Heavenly Father. The sad thing is, when we do that we are distancing ourselves from the only One who can provide the help we need.
For our father wounds to heal we must stop projecting our “dad stuff” onto God. We must discover who God really is. We must put aside the false notions we’ve come to believe and embrace the wonderful truth about our Heavenly Father that is found in His Word.
- He is a Father who wants nothing more than to have an intimate relationship with His children.
- He is a Father who values us so much He has our names engraved on His hand.
- He is a Father who would never think of leaving His kids.
- He is a Father who longs to give us the peace and healing we’re searching for.
As we seek to discover this Father we may have never known before, we can do so with confidence. The Bible assures us that if we search for him with all our heart and soul we will find him. (Det. 4:29b, NLT)
How might you have projected your earthly father onto the Heavenly Father?
– By Dan Kuiper
Dan completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2009. He is an author and speaker whose passion is to help those looking for love, healing and grace in their lives to find it in relationship with the Heavenly Father. Dan’s first book, When Father is a Bad Word, illustrates the parallels between our relationship with our earthly father and our perception of our Heavenly Father. Follow Dan’s blogs on his website: dankuiper.com.