My dad would have given his life for me. He provided for me and our family. He came to my basketball games in high school and was there for other important events. There is no doubt that he loved me during my childhood and loves me now.
Yet often when my father asked me to do some kind of project for him, 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 what he had done.
For example, we had a large yard that was hilly and full of pine trees. We lived where it was very hot and humid in the summer, and we only 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 14 years old, and I could never finish it in one day. Finally, toward the end of the summer when I was 15, I did it – and I was so excited at what I had accomplished. I couldn’t wait for my dad to get home from work so I could show him.
I sat on the front steps of our home, anticipating Dad’s arrival. When his car pulled up, I rushed over and shouted, “Dad, I mowed the lawn and finished it all in one day!”
My father stepped onto 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, no matter how hard I tried. I concluded that whatever I did for him, it would never be quite good enough.
An Inaccurate View of God
I didn’t know it at the time, but comments like this from my dad 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. So 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 saying, “You missed a spot, son.”
However, our view of God is not always negatively influenced by our families. 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. She wanted to obey him just because she knew how much he loved her.
As a result, 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 knows how much He loves her.
When you think about your relationship with God, do you see any parallels with your family? Your perspective on your Heavenly Father could have been influenced by your relationship with your dad, your mom, a grandparent, an uncle, or even someone outside your family, such as a school teacher, coach, or pastor.
Never forget: God is your Abba, meaning papa or daddy. In every situation, Roman 8:15 says you can cry out to Him, “Abba, Father.” That’s not being irreverent, for God wants to show you who He is. Regardless of your family relationships growing up, He wants you to experience the great love he has for you as your dad. No more striving!
Mark Maulding is an ordained minister of the gospel and obtained his Master of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary. Mark was a church pastor for 10 years before starting Grace Life International, a counseling ministry located in North Carolina and online. Learn more at gracelifeinternational.com.