Our Father

By Tricia Kinsman
In Hope & Healing
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When it comes to human relationships, we have the power to create or destroy, nurture or neglect, heal or traumatize. That’s the power God has placed in our hands. Yet, God’s intent with us when He created us in His image was that we would know Him and represent His character to others. It is our highest calling as humans—and as fathers.

As we come to the yearly celebration of our earthly fathers, how has that relationship been for you? Not all of us had dads that supported us emotionally and physically, were gentle with us, or were even a part of our lives. For those who struggle with the father/child relationship, how does that affect our concept of God as our Father?

There have been many studies suggesting that our understanding of God is directly linked to the relationship we’ve had with our earthly fathers. In fact, if you were to make a list of attributes that you have seen and experienced with your father, and then a list of attributes you’ve experienced with God, you would probably see a lot of similarities. If we experienced an exceptionally trustworthy father growing up, we would attribute trustworthiness easily to our Heavenly Father. If we experienced a father who was emotionally neglectful, we would struggle to believe our Heavenly Father cared about our hurts, our pain, and our longings.

The author of the book “Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse” says, “We can anticipate great damage when humans…look to a key adult, expecting to get a glimpse of what God is like but in reality get a picture of what Satan is like. This can have disastrous effects on our ability to trust people (AND God!). Children need and deserve to glean a sense of the character of God from watching their adult caregivers. Adults who distort the image of God cause great harm to spiritually thirsty children… Instead of functioning properly as God’s representatives to care for creation, adults can rule harshly over creation and grossly misrepresent who God is. When humans do not function as God’s representatives but use their power to dominate rather than nurture, much long-term damage is done.”

Our earthly relationships have the power to shape how we see and relate to God. But those views aren’t always rooted in truth. Fortunately, God tells us exactly what His character is in scripture. And Jesus came to model that character for us and show us how to be in relationship with the Father and His image bearers.

For those of us who had great dads, they still were not perfect. Even the best of them made human mistakes that may have skewed our understanding of God. But our Heavenly Father loves us perfectly, completely, and with grace and kindness. For those of us who have experienced trauma at the hands of our fathers, this may be even harder to see. But because of God’s constant pursuit, He is with us in the journey, showing us ways to see Him truly and differently than we saw our own dads. He promises that the Holy Spirit will do the work of healing our hearts and leading us into the truth about our Heavenly Father as we surrender our false ideas to him.

This Father’s Day, thank God that He is the ultimate representative of a father’s love and compassion. He loves us perfectly and has promised to provide everything we need relationally, emotionally and physically. And if you are struggling though the effects of emotional neglect or physical or spiritual abuse, we want you to know that there is a safe place at IBC to process it all. Mending the Soul begins again this September and we invite you to join us. Registration is open at https://irvingbible.org/events/mending-the-soul.

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