How we perceive God can seem inextricably linked to the way we perceive our earthly mothers and fathers. Whether it’s the dad who left us feeling inadequate and voiceless, or the mom who felt more like the child and less like the adult (rendering our environment unpredictable and isolating), a tendency to view God as an extension of our parents is not a huge leap. Unsurprisingly, the messages we received and have come to believe about ourselves can begin to feel like they’re coming from him. The beautiful thing, is there is space for both grace and healing. The important thing is that we establish a right understanding of God as the perfect parent, not only so we might model ourselves after him, but also so we can more accurately understand how he views us.
Perhaps experiences from your upbringing communicated that you will never be good enough or completely worthy of love. In essence, your mistakes seemed to define you, revealing a love that felt conditional at best. So much so that you can’t quite fathom a God who wants to love you and meet you in your “dirt”. And He does. Desperately. We belong to a God who asks us to bring him our failures, doubts, needs and concerns just so he can accept us anyway, evidencing a true love which comes without condition. The hard part for us usually is letting him. (Psalm 40:2).
Perhaps your family lacked the predictability and sense of security you were owed as a child. You never quite knew what to expect, or what you were getting yourself into when you walked through your front door. Our perfect parent, however, sets the standard for consistent and reliable. The “what" and "how" of his existence and provision may be a mystery, but the promise that we will ultimately be provided for with exactly what we need is vehemently clear. Our wants and needs are not always in alignment, so we must accept his provision may mean strength amidst struggle, or a hand to hold in times of suffering. Nonetheless, it will be there, and it will be adequate. (Philippians 4:19).
Or perhaps your family left you feeling alone, unheard, and unimportant. Whether it's a result of differing world views, never fully feeling understood, or that nagging sense of un-belonging, our families are sometimes the most lonely places to be. However in God's family, we are powerfully valued. We are always seen, we are fully understood, and we are completely known. His loving presence is never absent- if we trust this, we will experience peace no matter what the nature of our circumstances might be. (Exodus 33:14).
I encourage you to remind yourself: for most of us, our families did the best they could with what they had. They likely intended well, but found themselves tripped up by the wounds, hurts, and violations from their own respective upbringings. Your biological family is not a complete picture of your heavenly family, nor indicative of God’s ultimate desire for you. Have grace for yourself, have grace for your families, and allow the possibility for finding hope and healing in knowing the character of your true Father. With him, your position is secure in the ultimate, functional family. (John 1:11-12).