I was in a dating relationship a few years ago with another Christian and we started attending church together, going out for lunch afterwards. I was always eager to discuss what I’d heard in the Epistle, Gospel or Sermon. We were both raised Catholic so we didn’t have a strong schooling in Scripture, but I was eager to learn.
Our relationship started out great! He was attentive and wanted to be with me all the time, going out for dinner and movies every Friday and Saturday with Sunday reserved for church and lunch.
After 8 months, we discussed a lot of our relationship history and our desires for marriage and to raise a family. We’d even talked about how families best are “blended” when two small children are involved (he was divorced with a 5 and 7 year old).
My eagerness to deepen my faith continued to grow and I looked forward most to our discussions after mass on Sunday.
After dating a little over a year, I perceived a change. As I became more comfortable with Scripture I started to ask more questions and our lunch conversations took on a tone of “debate” rather than a sharing of ideas. After six weeks in a row of ending in tears, I realized that our “discussions” were not really discussions at all. If I didn’t agree with his interpretation, he became angry and distant, making me feel inadequate in my faith. I told a good Christian girlfriend in confidence about this change in my relationship with him from one of being blissfully happy and heading toward marriage towards one of controversy. My friend’s analysis shocked me, “You’re having these disagreements because of how you view God. He views God as a God of punishment where you see God as a God of love. You two will never be on the same page unless the Holy Spirit indwells in him. He is a “strict father type”; his way is the only way and questioning his line of thinking isn’t allowed. And if you don’t agree to his demands, he punishes you by withholding affection or the silent treatment. I’d get out of the relationship now. A “nurturing parent” is incompatible with a “strict father”. If you marry you will have nothing but a lifetime of heartbreak.”
It took me another four months to heed my friend’s advice and end the relationship, but her words continually replay in my head. She explained that the “strict father/nurturing parent” theory is used by George Lakoff in Moral Politics to explain that our politics are governed by our view of God. My friend suggested that our view of God (God of punishment versus God of love) also determines our relationships with others.
It’s been a few years since my friend’s teaching, but I’ve realized that until a “strict father” feels the love of Christ through the Holy Spirit, he will always be a “strict father” demanding that household rules and laws never be broken. It is only when he is touched by the Holy Spirit that he is free to love his family, his friends and neighbors without judging them and inflicting punishment for every perceived “failing”.
I’ve quit trying to please the “strict fathers” in my life; I’ll never again give my heart away to one.
Are you in a relationship with a “strict father”, one who enforces all rules and law, always judging, and continuing to raise the bar in your relationship so you never feel loved? You will never be perfect enough to please him. Get out now.
Blessings, my friend,