Our Picture of God as Father

God makes us totally dependent on parents or caregivers for the first five years of our lives. Our parents become like gods to us. In a perfect world, this would be a good thing. It is a daunting responsibility to know that as parents and caregivers, we mirror God to a child. This means we will need to depend on God a lot (and that is what he wants).

In counseling, we see people from all walks of life who have a distorted view of God the Father because their parents misrepresented him. It doesn’t matter whether the client is a missionary, pastor, music leader, or doctor of theology. The biggest influence on how a person sees God is not their knowledge of the Scriptures. It is the representation or misrepresentation of God, which that person saw mirrored by their parents.


We can’t begin to count the number of people who have told us, “I know in my head that God loves me, but I don’t feel it in my heart.” This is the great disconnect that the Father wants to deal with in each one of us. One of our clients, Ted, told us that whenever he remembers the critical words his dad said to him, he hears it accompanied with the sound of a horse rawhide whip—Snap!

“Get over it.” Snap!

“Rub some dirt in it and go on.” Snap!

“That didn’t hurt.” Snap! 

“Quit crying, you baby.” Snap!

“I’ll give you something to cry about.” Snap!

“Suck it up like a man.” Snap!

“You are an embarrassment to the family.” Snap!

“You are just a mamma’s boy.” Snap!

As he grew up, Ted picked up the rawhide lessons from dad and used the whip on himself. Snap!

Now his heart doesn’t need a Band-Aid. It needs surgery to remove the damaged tissue and restore blood flow to the part that hardened long ago. In order to look good enough on the outside, Ted learned to perform. Not only did he demand perfection from himself, but he expected it from others as well. Now at forty-nine years of age, his internal world is falling apart. All of a sudden, Ted feels fatigued, depressed, and overwhelmed. For the first time, he can’t keep all his plates spinning and hold all his beach balls under the water.

Is it any wonder that Ted has problems believing God is really there with him and for him—that God delights in him, brags about him, enjoys every little detail about him; that God knows every single hair on Ted’s head; that he was intimately involved in every detail of creating Ted unique, knitting him together for nine months in his mother’s womb?

Ted is at the beginning—the first steps in recovery. He is now ready to admit that his life is out of control and he is powerless over his dysfunctional behaviors and irrational beliefs. If he could overcome his problems by himself as he did in the past, he would—but he can’t. Ted now turns to the Father with a heart yielded and emptied of pride, seeing his false public self, his self-deception, his weakness, and his inadequacy. Once again he finds himself coming as if he were three years old—hungry, thirsty, poor, and needy. As he lays down his independence, he finds himself right in the Father’s lap, a place of dependence he never needs to leave again.

Taken from the chapter, “Come as a Child,” in The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself,  now available at Amazon.com or jerryanddenisebasel.com.

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