GOD, image of
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One of the main reasons people hold false perceptions of God is our tendency to project
onto God the unloving characteristics of the people we look up to. We tend to believe that
God is going to treat us as other do. The Gaultieres agree: We like to think that we
develop our image of God from the Bible and teachings of the church, not from our
relationships -- some of which have been painful. It's easier if our God image is simply
based on learning and believing the right things. Yet, intensive clinical studies on the
development of peoples' images of God show that it is not so simple. One psychologist
found that this spiritual development of the God image is more of an emotional process
than an intellectual one. She brings out the importance of family and other relationships
to the development of what she calls one's "private God." She says that,
"No child arrives at the 'house of God' without his pet God under his arm." And
for some of us the "pet God" we have tied on a leash to our hearts is not very
nice, nor is it biblically accurate. This is because our negative images of God
rooted in our emotional hurts and destructive patterns of relating to people that we carry
with us from our past. Imagine a little girl of seven who has known only
abuse from her father whom she loves dearly. At Sunday School she is taught that God is
her heavenly Father. What is her perception of Him going to be? Based on her experience
with her natural father, she will see God as an unstable, rejecting, abusing person she
Consider just a few ways in which your image of your father possibly may have affected
your perception of God, which in turn affects your self-image.
If you father was distant, impersonal and uncaring, and he wouldn't intervene for you,
you may see God as having the same characteristics. As a result, you feel that you are
unworthy ofGod's intervention in your life. You find it difficult to draw close to God
because you see Him as disinterested in your need and wants.
If your father was a pushy man who was inconsiderate of you, or who violated and used
you, you may see God in the same way. You probably feel cheap or worthless in God's eyes,
and perhaps feel that you deserve to be taken advantage of by others. You may feel that God
will force you -- not ask you -- to do things you don't want to do.
If your father was like a drill sergeant, demanding more and more from you with no
expression of satisfaction, or burning with anger with no tolerance for mistakes, you may
have cast God in his image. You likely feel that God will not accept you unless
you meet His
demands, which seem unattainable. This perception may have driven you to become a
If your father was a weakling, and you couldn't depend on him to help you or defend
you, your image of God may be that of a weakling. You may feel that you are unworthy of
God's comfort and support, or that He is unable to help you.
If your father was overly critical and constantly came down hard on you, or if he
didn't believe in you or your capabilities and discouraged you from trying, you may
perceive God in the same way. You don't feel as if you're worth God's respect or trust.
You may even see yourself as a continual failure, deserving all the criticism you receive.
In contrast to the negative perceptions many women have about God, let me give you
several positive character qualities of a father. Notice how these qualities, if they
existed in your father, have positively influenced your perception of God.
If your father was patient, you are more likely to see God as patient and available for
you. You feel that you are worth God's time and concern. You feel important to God and
that He ispersonally involved in every aspect of your life.
If your father was kind, you probably see God acting kindly and graciously on your
behalf. You feel that you are worth God's help and intervention. You feel God's love for
you deeply and you're convinced that He wants to relate to you personally.
If your father was a giving man, you may perceive God as someone who gives to you and
supports you. You feel that you are worth God's support and encouragement. You believe
that God will give you what is best for you, and you respond by giving of yourself to
If your father accepted you, you tend to see God accepting you regardless of what you
do. God doesn't dump on you or reject you when you struggle, but understands and
encourages you. You are able to accept yourself even when you blow it or don't perform up
to your potential.
If your father protected you, you probably perceive God as your protector in life. You
feel that you are worthy of being under His care and you rest in His security.
H. Norman Wright, Always Daddy's Girl, Regal Books
1989, pp. 193-195.