When we talked about God’s love, my dad always pointed to the figure of the Bishop in Les Miserables. He had difficulty connecting the notion of a loving father to his own flesh-and-blood dad; for him, reading about the grace that saturated the Bishop’s dealings with the crook-turned-hero, Jean Valjean, was his closest encounter to the sort of love that God the Father might offer.
Whether we like it or not, our conception of God, who calls Himself “Father”, is modeled on our earthly father. Much of our notions of love, and our worthiness of love, are shaped by our parents. If we didn’t experience healthy, life-giving nurturing as a child, it is that much harder to believe we are worthy of such affection as an adult. Unavoidably, however, our fathers fall short. Our world is broken. No matter how ideal a parent is, hurt and disappointment always exist in these relationships. No parent mirrors God the Father perfectly. We are but living in the “shadow lands”, as C.S. Lewis described it.
In order to open ourselves up to God’s transforming love, we are tasked with believing we are loved, despite our experience with primary caregivers. Jesus says the work is to believe: in the one whom He has sent, but also that we are the ones for whom He sent someone. His son.
This is hard for my own dad, and so many others, to grasp. Thankfully, God puts people in our lives to show us what love looks like. These surrogate parents provide pockets of love and advice to fill in the gaps left by fallible family members. Characters can paint a picture of the divine. A community can remind us who we are when ingrained childhood messages would dictate otherwise. Friends can help us get in agreement with God on what He thinks of us.
Who has modeled God’s love in your life?
Does your childhood help or hurt your ability to believe in a loving God?
For whom might you serve or be serving as a stand-in?
© Revolworks 2019