I ended my last entry defining the “good boy.” I’ll pick it up with how the empty way of life handed down to me by my father led to a search for gratification. Growing frustrated in my natural need for love, acceptance, and tenderness, I began a restless search for gratification apart from being the “good boy.” This was the empty place within me crying out for love and approval. My needs for love and affirmation were being met in very broken and unhealthy ways. I tried to fill the emptiness I felt with pornography and compulsive masturbation, emotionally dependent friendships, and eventually anonymous sexual encounters. Can you grasp how hungry I was for love and touch? And how that hunger led me to make so many bad choices. The only touch I received from my father as a child was abusive. Terribly touch deprived I hungered for the touch of another. Proverbs 27:7 pretty much describes me at that point of my life, “He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter taste sweet.”
After a while I grew tired of it all, the broken relational attachments, the sex, the isolating into fantasy, wasn’t filling the emptiness inside. I still had a deep ache within me, this was the empty way of life handed down to me by my father. At the end of my rope, I cried out to Jesus. Amazingly He answered my prayer and I became passionate for the things of God. Months later when my zeal diminished, I kept wanting to go back to the old ways of relating and I couldn’t understand why? I thought I had been doing all the right things; reading my bible, memorizing Scripture, going to bible studies and faithfully attending church.
What I hadn’t done was deal with the deep pain and grief within my heart. Outwardly I was doing all the right things, but inwardly I was still full of anger, hate and bitterness towards my father and dare I say God! I hadn’t dealt with the sin done against me by my father. I hadn’t dealt with the anger I had towards God. Oh yes, I was plenty angry with Him. Deep within I wondered why he gave me such a miserable father and such a lousy childhood. I’d see other people’s lives and be envious of what appeared to be the perfect family life. “Things would be so much different if only I had grown up in one of those “perfect” families.” I felt let down by God; I felt like he failed me, so my anger and resentment felt justified. I pretty much concluded that I was on my own in this world and I didn’t need God. All that I just described about God pretty much describes my dad. I was projecting onto God the image of my earthly father.
A part of me related to God as an abused and neglected child, not as a child that he loved. I was like an abused puppy that is adopted by a loving person; it takes a while before you begin to trust their demonstrations of love. As I’ve mentioned before I had a “Bitter Root” expectation. I expected punishment; not grace, love or forgiveness in my relationship with my father and with God. Unable to trust God limited me in my capacity to receive His love, so I lived the Christian life in my own strength. God can’t be trusted so I’ll keep being good and everyone will think well of me. This false self worked for a long time.
It is difficult to approach God as a loving father when ones experience with their own father has been nothing but humiliation and punishment. My memories of my father caused a deep anxiety within me. I knew about God in my head, but I didn’t know him in my heart. Deep down I was terrified of God in the same way that I was terrified of my own father. I had a wrong fear of God. I saw him as a condemning judge, one that expected me to be perfect and would not put up with failure. I believed he expected perfection (much like my own father) and if I failed he would be disappointed with me. Growing up in a graceless environment disabled me from receiving God’s grace. Do you see how I was unable to receive the fullness of God’s love because of my wrong view of Him?
Brennan Manning gives us a wonderful description of the true fear of the Lord, “It is silent wonder, radical amazement, and affectionate awe at the inexpressible greatness of God’s love.”
Proverbs 14:27 tells us that the right fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. Whoa! That is completely opposite of where I was at in relation to God.
You don’t even need to identify with the father wound and can still have a wrong view. Some of you have worked all of your young lives trying to win your fathers affections and you’ve done a great job of proving you’re a success. Your father is very proud. Wound, what wound? But what some of you have done is project that kind of thinking onto God, thinking you can win His affections through your success in good works and disciplines of the faith. I think it was Mike Bickle who said, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less.” I’m not saying we can’t grieve his heart but he still loves us in the midst of our foolishness and waywardness. As Francis Chan would say, “That is crazy love!”
I often find that what separates many of us from the love of God is our ungodly beliefs about ourselves, which we then project onto God. “God doesn’t care about me.” “God doesn’t even know I exist.” “I’m disappointed with my life, so God must be disappointed with me.” These wrong beliefs, lies that we’ve embraced, keep us from receiving the Father’s affections.
Those thoughts need to be taken captive and given to Jesus at the cross. In our Healing Path course here at The River Church Community we nail these lies to an actual wooden cross laid flat on the floor. What a glorious sound to hear hammer hit nail as these words find their end in Jesus cross. This is so empowering for men and women to rise up and take authority over these lies that have separated them from God’s healing words. Then in our small groups we listen for one another to hear the healing words of the Father to replace the lies of our past. I recommend this exercise if you have those old tapes playing in your head.
Eventually I had to learn how to be completely real with God concerning how I felt about Him if I was going to move forward in my healing journey. Holding onto our anger will only intensify our bitterness towards God and others. Truth is we can’t be right with God until we’re real with Him. As I learned how to dialogue with God, much of my anger came forth in those conversations and I began to feel a release within from all my anger and bitterness. This is actually where I learned how to receive His comfort, experience His love, and begin to truly listen to God. In relationship with God, we find that He is slow to anger and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6). He is compassionate and comforting. In 2 Corinthians 1:3 it says that he is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.” In Isaiah 49:14 Israel believes God has deserted them, forgotten them and Isaiah takes them to task and says, “Never!” Can a mother forget her little child and not have love for her own son? Yet even if that should be, I will not forget you.”
People always say the truth sets you free. That’s close but not entirely right. Knowing the truth sets us free. Take some time and reread the previous paragraph and meditate on those words about God’s character. Ask the Holy Spirit to minister to you the comfort and compassion that you didn’t receive from your father. Ask Him to remind you of the words of Jesus who said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” May He help you to internalize these truths so that they become water to your thirsty soul.