Is loving God hard for you? It is for me. In fact, for many years it was impossible. For much of that time, I was angry, and loving anything was hard. Loving God was impossible. Even after I dealt with the anger and found my way back to church, loving God was not easy.
I am not an expert in the area of loving God. What I am is someone who thought he was at war with God for years and finally realized it was a one-sided and futile war. I am praying my experiences will help you or someone you know.
In “Through the Eyes of a Child” I outlined the experiences surrounding my salvation. It was quite a roller coaster ride, and that was only the beginning. As I grew from childhood to manhood, my faith was stretched, battered and eventually destroyed. One of my problems was my inability to separate my father from my Father.
The first person a child loves is normally its mother. The bond between mother and child is, in most cases, strong and deep. It is also a primal sort of love, almost an instinct. A mother is the source of nutrition, warmth, comfort and touch. How could a child not love its mother?
The love a child has for its father is different. This is especially true for a male child. A father is often an imposing and scary figure. He is someone who comes and goes, seemingly at random. When he is there, he often interferes with the mother-child bond. Loving your father is not instinctual. It is learned, and sometime it is a hard lesson.
I loved my father. At least, I loved him as I understood love at the time. He was my idol. He was big, strong, smart, funny and intimidating. He could do anything. He was also human, and that was the problem.
A human father has failings. No matter how wonderful he may seem, he will fail, disappoint and hurt his children at times. In most cases, the failures can be overcome with time. The emotional wounds are minor and time allows them to heal. In some cases, the wounds come in sequence, a new one coming before the old one heals. If that continues, healing is difficult and love can turn to fear, distaste, even hate. I do not believe I ever hated my father, but I hated some of the things he did. I certainly came to the point that I did not respect him.
The end of my love for my father started with the disappointment I felt when we left the church. I had been baptized at 11 years old. I still believe that was a true and heartfelt surrender to Christ. I was saved at that point. As related in “Through the Eyes of a Child,” the human weaknesses of my father and my pastor caused my family to leave the church. It was also the beginning of the end for my father and me.
The problems that caused our family to leave that particular church were really not serious. They were the result of a clash of egos, my father’s and the pastor’s. It is a story played out in churches all of the time. Someone who sees himself as lay leader or minister comes into conflict with the pastor and tensions rise. Hopefully, the matter is handled between the two parties in a Christian fashion. Sometimes, they are not, and one or both parties end up losing the respect of those around them.
My father did not handle the conflict well. He got his feelings hurt, picked up his toys and left. Of course, the family went with him. As far as I can remember my father never set foot in a church again, unless it was funeral or a wedding. He also turned his back on God.
A child does not understand that we are all sinners. All I knew at the time was that the two men I associated most closely with God were not who they claimed to be. They were petty, spiteful and weak. That was a wound that took many years to heal, as it was simply the first of many. Each new wound reopened the older ones.
The next ten years of my life were not terrible. They just seemed that way. Our family continued its nomadic lifestyle. Problems between my parents became more serious. Their conflict caused my brother and me to choose sides, making us enemies to some degree.
By my eighteenth birthday, my parents were divorcing. My father had a pregnant girlfriend only two years older than I, and I was left to help pick up the pieces of my mother’s life.
Loving God, the Heavenly Father is easy for some. Rightly or wrongly, their love of the Father is simply an extension of the love they have for their father. If they have a loving, caring father, it is easier to believe in a loving, caring Father. For people like me, it is much more difficult.
How can someone love the Heavenly Father when he or she cannot fully love his or her father? How can someone trust the Heavenly Father when he or she cannot trust his or her father? Add to that the nature of God, all-powerful, wipes entire nations from the face of the earth and requires one to believe in Him without any proof of his existence, it is even harder.
There is one final point to be made before closing. A less than ideal relationship with your father is not the only obstacle to loving God, at least in my case. The next most influential male in a young person’s spiritual walk is normally a pastor. If a person’s pastor has as many failings as the father, the odds of a child loving and trusting God are even lower.
The good news is the lack of a loving or loved earthly father can be overcome. It may not be easy, and it may not be quick, but it can be done. In my case it took almost thirty years. I pray it does not take you or anyone you know that long.
© S. E. Jackson